Rewriting history at Meerlust back to 1984, one vintage at a time

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

It was on September 12th, 2017 that a once in a lifetime South African vertical tasting happened. The South African Wine Society managed to acquire 10 Meerlust wines from nine vintages gathered over 15 years. In Toronto. At The University of Toronto Faculty Club. It’s not that I want to invoke the dystopian dread of George Orwell nor do I equate the master’s writing with the wines of Meerlust but tasting 1984 through to 2010 has provoked the linguistic drama in me to invoke some wordsmith parallels. “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Winemaker Chris Williams may not totally disagree.

Few Cabernet Sauvignon vertical tastings are capable of determining such a clear picture in style, patterning and evolution, save for perhaps for obvious reasons what is possible out of Bordeaux. This focused collection from Meerlust connected past to present and with no real South African presence in the room. A 25-minute video presentation by Williams and the wines were all the 75 guests in attendance had to go on. By the time the winemaker had sped-tasted and rapid-dissected the nine vintages most of the four-ounce pours in the room were drained. It was a quick to state of bliss happy bunch.

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. On the 3rd July 1693, the Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, granted the land to Henning Hüsing, who named the farm Meerlust, describing the sense of pleasure he obtained from the sea breezes that blew inland from False Bay. Johannes Albertus Myburgh bought Meerlust in January 1757. His ownership marked the foundation of the Myburgh Dynasty.

Hannes Myburgh, eighth generation owner of Meerlust, graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in French and English in 1982, before studying winemaking at Geisenheim in Germany. Hannes worked at Chateau Lafite in France and von Oetinger in Germany. Chris Williams was appointed Cellar Master at Meerlust in 2004 but has worked as Assistant Winemaker for the farm since 1995. He studied Oenology at Elsenberg and gained international experience in France while working for Michel Rolland. He is assisted by Wilson Waterboer and the cellar team.

Remarkable history and longevity through 10 back vintages of @meerlustwine #rubicon with the South African Wine Society. Thank you LK for the generous treat.

Rubicon is Meerlust’s flagship wine and considered one of South Africa’s premier Bordeaux Blend reds, first made in 1980. This vertical of nine vintages included 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008  and 2009. I’ve added 2010, tasted recently through Ontario’s VINTAGES release program. In addition, we tasted cabernet sauvignon 2004, infrequently made, the previous time in 1993. This is the prime ingredient to the Bordeaux blend, usually making up around 60 per cent of the wine, with merlot, cabernet franc (and from 2008 on), petit verdot added. Thank you to Laurel Keenan of Wines of South Africa Canada, for having me and to Eleanor Cosman of the South African Wine Society, for hosting. Here are the notes.

Meerlust Rubicon 2010, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (64329, $37.95, WineAlign)

Meerrlust’s iconic blend is a Stellenbosch essential, of the ripest fruit and fully-rendered barrel. I’m quite amazed at its uncanny ability to appeal, even at this seven year mark, a show of generosity and gregarious character almost unparalleled for a wine of its Western Cape ilk. The geology runs deep, neither reductive, sap-flowing or bouncy, but the mineral sear and streak is certainly there. This Rubicion trades fecundity for earthy chocolate, uncompromising and unapologetic in its frosting. Beef is a must, preferably rare and dark from high heat char. Dry-aged and or Wagyu would pair even better. The blend is 62 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (24) merlot, (12) cabernet franc and (2) petit verdot. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2009, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Winemaker Chris Williams forged the people’s Rubicon in 2009, a Bordeaux blend as recognizable in name and style as much as any produced in not only South Africa, but worldwide. Everything is attractive in 2009, beginning with these quite lovely liquid dusty, rich mulberry and deep plum notes. To a crowd of 75 it can’t help but be the standout of general consensus for its sheer restrained hedonism and unabashed beauty. Youth has so much to do with how this shows but believe me 2009 is just a baby, so much more so than 2008 and they are only a year apart. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot, (9) cabernet franc and (1) petit verdot. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2008, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

The 2008 is the first vintage with some petit verdot in the mix though it’s just a start, with one per cent to go along in a blend of (71) cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (9) cabernet franc. Shows some volatility and also more wood in the context of an espresso-chocolate continuum. Here a deeply hematic and iron schisty Rubicon, intense, brooding, mineral well dug deep into the terroir. This goes strong and powerful up the sides of the tongue with that fine but intense acidity. Unquestioned as a fine wine with lots of wood derived chocolate flavours but the spice is all fruit and the tannin from off of that fruit. Massive structure and age possibility will go well into the twenties. Drink 2017-2027.  Last tasted September 2017.

Rubber dust, road macadam and strawberry jam. Fierce Bordeaux Blend home from a hot climate. This has gritty obduracy and doggedness. Like a red blend with a gun, walking the mean streets. Acidity shot through the roof. Bordeaux meets South Africa in every shared, resplendent and promising way. Rasping tannins contain bursting dark fruit, the grain running in multiple directions. Respect. Wait two more years on this and drink comfortably past 2020. Tasted November 2014

Meerlust Rubicon 2007, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2007 is the last to be made without any petit verdot (74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (11) cabernet franc) and is actually not too dissimilar to ’06 though truly lighter and with more high bright intensity. It is also possessive of that collective ropey, red dusty cured and dried fruit character, like what can happen with traditionally adhered to sangiovese and tempranillo. So really when you think about it this shares a style, at least in part with more than its Bordeaux cousins. Yet go and ask winemaker Chris Williams and he’ll tell you “I dont think this wine could be made anywhere else because of terroir and history.” Fair enough. Surely the winemaker knows. Drink 2017-2026.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2006, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon is one of the original South African Bordeaux blends, here in 2006 with merlot and cabernet franc to satisfy the blended needs of cabernet sauvignon. The blend is 74 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (8) merlot and (18) cabernet franc. This ’06 is a bit shy, reserved, not giving much away from its usual floral heights. There is a layering of palate density before then deriving its complexity through the alleys of acidity, tannin and structure. Still so far from coming around but this reminds me of that salty, saline and mineral 1996. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2005, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 2005 the blend (69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (15) merlot and (16) cabernet franc) saw an increase of cabernet franc, likely because of heat units and a vintage-driven jamminess exhibited by the cabernet sauvignon. The result is a cooler, increased savoury blend with a rising of steroidal currants so very sapid in a pool of high acidity. It’s the most lucent Rubicon, almost luminescent though not quite transparent, still so vital, pulsating and nearly raging in its wild, twitchy edgy energy, even beastly and in the end, just a bit out of balance. Like a Steve Vai riff in Zappa mode. Then again, the, Rubicon ’05, anything but a flex able leftover or quaint little wine might tell me, “I’m the beast of love and you just got in my way.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2004 is a completely different animal, with animale musk and a deep, dark and brooding constitution. The blend is 63 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (27) merlot and (10) cabernet franc. Shows 13 years on as the young (Chris Williams) winemaker’s ambitious first solo effort, while the wood was once so obviously in power of demand, it’s now ameliorated and integrated. This must have taken some time to come around, perhaps as recent as a year or two ago. Rubicon has been produced since 1980, was previuosly a matter of cabernet sauvignon, now here with more cabernet franc than before. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2003, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Rubicon 2003 was made by Chris Williams’ predecessor Giorgio Dalla Cia and from ’04 on they are made by Williams. The blend is 69 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (19) merlot and (12) cabernet franc. From a long hot dry sumer, a classic Rubicon, again with some lovely complexity out of the shadow of volatility, more savour here and cedar, plus pencil lead and graphite. In the freshest of ways this is closer to the present stylistic of Rubicon and Stellenbosh and further away than 1996. It’s the transition from old to new, with concentrated black currant, Cassis and wine gum. Not quite tertiary bit meaty char, balsamic, fennel and mushroom are just around the corner. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 2001, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

2001, a warmer vintage is the assumption, with its wood still in play and tannins truly continuing their assertion. Giorgio dalla Cia fashioned a truly proportioned blend, of 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon with equal parts merlot and cabernet franc. While it can’t hide from its ocean salinity and omnipresent terroir it is a stand out vintage because of new world opulence. I’m not sure there will be another Rubicon in this tasting or at any opportunistic time that will make one dream so vividly of Bordeaux (i.e Château Pichon Longueville Baron) but also Napa Valley (i.e. Opus One). The structure in this Rubicon is purely Stellenbosch and with its merlot/cabernet franc proportion it’s quite intriguing, especially because of the warmth and how dramatically this foreshadows how franc will become more important in the blend as the years progress by. A fantastic wine Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 1996, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

In 1996 Chris Williams was a junior winemaker (to Giorgio della Cia) at the time but he remembers the vintage well. The blend is 70 per cent cabernet sauvignon, (20) merlot and (10) cabernet franc, from a cool vintage, here still dishing some Brettanomyces. It’s in check and so kind, gentle and helps to fixate towards thinking it a a sleeper vintage sort of personality There is much savour, still fruit (mulberry and plum), lots of acidity in quite a sour patch candy way but really dry and intense.Plenty of sediment! Very much alive with the silty, salty, but not fine pearly tannin. This falls into the saline-savoury style with wood just a dream from long ago, though admittedly a bit too pungent and earthy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Rubicon 1984, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (WineAlign)

Meerlust dates back to 1693, the house that is “love or pleasure of the sea.” Less than five kms south from the Atlantic Ocean, the property was purchased in 1756 and to this day remains family owned, now in its eighth generation with 260 years of continuity. Rubicon 1984 is poured (with brilliant decision making) from magnum and is therefore fresher than the 1996 with an incredibly controlled level of fineness in tannin, from acidity and at the threshold of understood volatility. “Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood,” like this early Rubicon. The future of Meerlust is foretold with Orwellian transparency, bold honesty and expert ability. “Who controls the past controls the future.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted September 2017

Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa (283390, $29.95, WineAlign)

Meerlust’s solo cabernet sauvignon ’04 is not merely very much alive it’s still full of bright fruit, though the wood is more noticeable than on the Rubicon. It is the lack of cabernet franc more than anything that seems to be the reason. The ganache component is highly significant, a chocolate factor magnified but still the Meerlust acidity drives the machine. Ripe and ripping with tannins still very much in charge, this wouldn’t be harmed by the generous and patient affording of more time so that it may further evolve to become the pleasing red it knows it will be. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted September 2017

Not just #meerlust more like major lust. Thank you for the sexy time travel @meerlustwine Laurel Keenan and The South African Wine Society.

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Missed it by that much. #oldwine #vinonobile #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #cantineriunite

During the eight-day locomotive migration through Anteprime Toscane in February 2017 there were nearly 1000 wines to try, mostly sangiovese in all its various genetic, clonal and stylistic fluctuations.  The aberration was in San Gimignano, a stop on the tour that I regrettably missed due to a deeper delve into Chianti Classico’s (even in) February verdant hills. One checkpoint and more specifically one tasting stood out from the rest. Fifty years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

That the powers that be at the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano thought to amass ten wines spanning four decades and launching with that fateful year of 1967 was more than a stroke of regional genius. It was both a major risk to take and a gift of great generosity. There was no way of knowing how those early virgin wines of DOC origin would show or if in fact that life would still be left in them. Perhaps another shortlisted vintage or two was waiting in the wings just in case a 1967 or a 1975 failed to survive but regardless, some serious props, high-fives and sincerest thanks go out to the producers and decision makers of this most storied consorzio.

While some examples expressed themselves with more spirit and vitality than others, any doubt cast on the structure of the Montepulciano sangiovese has been vehemently cast aside. The prugnolo gentile and other (increasingly employed) varietal variants cultivated in the Valdichiana and Val d’ Orcia are more than a 50-year-old project. “The oldest documented reference to the wine of Montepulciano is from 789 in which the cleric Arnipert offered the church of San Silvestro or San Salvatore at Lanciniano on Mt Amiata, a plot of land cultivated with vineyards in the estate of the castle of Policiano. Later, Repetti mentions a document in 1350 (in his “Historical and Geographical dictionary of Tuscany”) which drew up the terms for trade and exportation of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.”

“The Sixties brought a reawakening in winegrowing geared principally towards the production of Vino Nobile rather than Chianti. State and EU funds used by the wineries to convert their vineyards into conformity with the requirements of the DOC (1966), enabled new wineries to enter the market. Recognition of DOCG status came in 1980 and Vino Nobile began a new life.”

In advance of the 50-year seminar the Annata 2014 and Riserva 2013 vintages were presented. The challenge of the growing season showed the fortitude and the persistence of Montepulciano’s producers. You can throw a difficult set of weather patterns at the Vino Nobile but you can’t break their spirit. The ’14s are different, that much is clear, but more than enough quality, firm grip and structure is available to send these wines well into the next decade. They are a grounded bunch. The 2013 Riserva are more of an elegant crew, for the most part and as representatives of the multiplicity of sangiovese they are as falling snow, like the endless repetition of winter’s everyday miracle. They are also wines that do not swing their arms, an indication of a secretiveness of character. Which smarts into contradiction a connection to the ten 50 years of Vino Nobile wines. It explains how exciting it is to spend time with them in 2017.

Post Anteprima Vino Nobile we paid a visit to Avignonesi. Two extraordinary vertical tastings were held with proprietor Virginie Saverys, Max Zarobe and winemaker Ashleigh Seymour; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2014-2010 and Desiderio Merlot 2013-2010-2001-1998. “When I purchased Avignonesi in 2009 it was Mars, or Venus,” began Virginie, “it was not planet earth.” Today it is a model of Montepulciano consistency. Here are my notes on those Avignonesi vintages along with some Anteprima prugnolo and those 50 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

50 years of #vinonobile @consorzionobile #50anni #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano

Contucci Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1967, Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy (486068, Agent, WineAlign)

Contucci’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ’67 was produced during a significant year in world history. The first heart transplant, the Six-Day War, the Monterey Pop Festival, The World Exposition in Montreal, The first Super Bowl and the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band. It was also the year Celtic beat Internazionale in the European Cup Final. Contucci’s Vino Nobile is from a time when there were maximum seven producers in Montepulciano and only the second vintage as a denominazione wine. A primitive wine from a primitive stage in the history of the area. If it’s not totally oxidized, it’s certainly most of the way there. Smells like a nearly petrified orange, fermenting lemons and toasted meringue. Certainly many white grape varieties in here. Old and chestnut barrels were used for a seven to eight month period of aging. Much more life shows on the palate, with lemon, orange, caramel and lanolin or paraffin. Lingers for a bit. More than interesting. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  andreacontucci  #contucciwinery  kylixwines  #cantinacontucci  @KylixWines  Contucci  Andrea Contucci  @KylixWines

Tramps like us. @consorzionobile #borntorun #1975 #vinonobile #fanneti #sangiovese #vinonobiledimontepulciano #toscana

Fanetti Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1975, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Fanetti’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano almost defies 40 plus years having passed since 1975. The higher acidity may not exactly scream at this time but you can imagine it having done so for a long time in its harkening back to having been raised at a higher elevation. Fruit is completely gone (of course) but we’re still in forest floor, faint mushroom and compost. The acidity still kind of rages, incredibly and this smells like lemon wood polish but also musty leather. Twenty years ago would have been really nice. I like the mouthfeel, like old Rioja, really old, with a creamy and silken texture. Quite alive, despite the off-putting nose. This was worth the visit. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #fanetti

Boscarelli Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva 1982, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The Boscarelli acts like a much younger Nobile, from an exceptional vintage and a producer way ahead of its time. The key is to decide which side of the evolutionary fence we’re on, closer to that 1967 from Contucci or to what is happening today. This may actually be the turning point for Vino Nobile because it really has one foot entrenched in each world. Very much in the mushroom and truffle aromatic atmosphere, where sangiovese should feel free and comfortable to travel in the twilight of its golden years. This is beautiful, with some dark fruit persisting and acidity still in charge. You can imagine the old tannins but they no longer make any demands. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #PoderiBoscarelli  lucadeferrarildf  artisanal_wine_imports  #poderiboscarelli  Nicolò De Ferrari   Luca De Ferrari  @artisanalwineimports

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 1988, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

Avignonesi’s Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1988 picks up where its most excellent peers left off but also leads back into a quality level of parity tasted after Boscarelli’s 1982. This nearly 30 year-old sangiovese is not alone in its walk through the woods, leading to the autumnal mushrooms, unearthing the truffles and yet its trudge though the forest floor is even more prevalent. And then the intense pungency of porcini comes flying out of the glass. Good acidity still travels up and down the tongue and then it retreats so very drying on the finish. Wonderful look back. Drink 2017-2019. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  avignonesi  rogersandcompanywines  mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines  @mdzbtz  @avignonesi  @rogcowines 

Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano “Vigneto La Caggiole” 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Back in 1988 Poliziano’s Riserva style Vino Nobile di Montepulciano came from this single vineyard, the “Vigneto La Caggiole.” Named after an ancient farm and/or St. Mustiola’s “Caggiole” Parish, it comes from Cagio, a word in the middle ages meaning “a forest or a bounded area by forests.” When tasted side by side by each with the ’82 Boscarelli and the ’88 Avignonesi this Poliziano is much more reserved and muted aromatically so I’ll hedge a bet that the tannins are still in charge. Indeed this is the case but they are sweet and copacetic to fruit that persists, though only reveals its fleshy charms on the palate. A Vino Nobile yet very drinkable to date. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  polizianowinery  noble_estates  @PolizianoAzAgr  @Noble_Estates  @PolizianoAz.Agr  @NobleEstates

Carpineto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1988, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Carpineto’s Nobile dating back 29 years is now wholly and totally volatile, of the vinyl curtain as carpeting on the forest’s floor. Some mushroom and lots of wood on the palate. Smoky and smouldering to a tart and still persistent, tannic finish. Still waiting for the settling though after three decades if it hasn’t happened yet it’s not ever going to. Would have offered serious and substantial pleasure when the fruit was still active but that finest moment was in the last decade. Drink 2017.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  @CarpinetoWines  @UNIVINS  Carpineto Wines  @agence.UNIVINS  carpinetowines  univinscanada

Tenuta Di Gracciano Della Seta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 487074, WineAlign)

The Della Seta ’95 hosts and boasts an aromatic combination of forest earthy and floral pretty and so is this most interesting 22 year-old Vino Nobile, with dried wild strawberry (fragaria vesca = fragola di bosco), fruit, leaves, mulch and all. Quite tart and with some real texture, more structure and remarkable considering this was produced at the beginning of the house’s history. Well preserved and if it holds no candle to Chianti Classico or Sienese/Florentine Hills IGT sangiovese from the same excellent vintage, it surely lives to tell a similar tale. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  tenutadigraccianodellaseta  @GradellaSeta  @GraccianodellaSeta

Salcheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1995, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 685180, WineAlign)

The volatility and Bretty quality is there but I don’t imagine it so much more aggressive than it may have been at the start. Dried fruit is full on and in with very little in the way of mushroom and truffle. The small French oak barriques have certainly given this some preserve so that the fruit can turn to preserves on the palate. Good acidity persists as does so much residual spice from the wood. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017   #salchetowinery  hobbsandcompany  @SalchetoWinery  @AMH_hobbsandco  @Salcheto  @HobbsandCo

Bindella Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wood used at the time is clearly in full view though in a settled, creamy and gently spicy aromatic way. This has evolved quite quickly and efficiently, now into a sangiovese turned to balsamic, five spice and soy wax. Was and still is a rich wine though I would bet that 1998 has fared better. The acidity is still quite prevalent, the tannins not so much. Two shots of doppio espresso mark the tail and it lingers long enough to suggest a couple of more years at this stage. Melts away like chocolate on the tongue. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #bindella  #tenutavallocaia    @bindellavallocaia

Tenuta Valdipiatta “Vigna d’Alfiero” Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 1999, Docg Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Vigna d’Alfiero is not quite as evolved a 1999 as the Bindella with some more presentable and viable fruit life available, though the wood is very sheathing and in full couverture. Balance is better though because the acidity is finer and still persistent. Tannic and drying, this is exactly what I would expect for 18 year-old Vino Nobile. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017  #tenutavaldipiatta   rogersandcompanywines  @TenValdipiatta  @rogcowines  @TenutaValdipiatta  @rogcowines

Poderi Boscarelli

Boscarelli Prugnolo Rosso De Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $27.95, WineAlign)

Boscarelli’s use of varietal alias for the local sangiovese is both obvious and modern in approach. Their’s is a fresh and vibrant Rosso, lithe and unencumbered. Fragrant, sweet smelling roses lift the spirit and second the motion for needing no ornamentation. This completely self-adorned prugnolo is gentile but just firm enough a foil for the antipasti. Drink 2017-20219.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $51.00, WineAlign)

A firm ’14, not so unusual in itself and yet just ripe enough, with fragrant roses as indicated in the prugnolo ’15. Yet here the flowers also deliver a dried and saline line while everything seems to soften and emancipate on the palate. Notes of a future with tar and tabby developed red fruit comes dreamy yet clear with spice notes by barrel and varietal keeping the youthful spirit alive.  Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $63.95, WineAlign)

In accord of time under its belt and meltable structure afforded by the barrel it is the Riserva that strikes a now balance between ripe fruit and the firm grip of Vino Nobile tannin. I Boscarelli reference the least amount of volatility but the particular acidity is quite fastening as it works in cohorts with the tannin. These are musical wines of ligature and kedging anchors. While the Annata 2014 may have more bob in its sailing drift the Riserva is the stable schooner. It’s just a question of approach. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Sotto Casa DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $86.95, WineAlign)

Sotto Casa is a single-vineyard prugnolo from “beneath or below the home,” as the nomenclature suggests and is the house Vino Nobile paved with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon and five merlot. I don’t take huge stock in the need to discuss Bordeaux varietal addendum versus the endemic though in this case the floral lift and forgiving nature is worth a word or two. The 20 per cent expatriate accents make for a prugnolo of inclusion, in this case bringing the best out of that local sangiovese. Richness goes above and beyond, with nary a shrinking or chocolate shaken moment. The freshness here in such Riserva clothing is to be lauded. Really fine. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Boscarelli Vino Nobile De Montepulciano Riserva Il Nocio DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $148.95, WineAlign)

With some variegation in the alluvial soil to include sand and clay this 100 per cent sangiovese is drawn from the east side of the estate. The four hectare, 280 to 350 metres of altitude Vigna del Nocio has been owned by Poderi Boscarelli since 1988. It is here where terroir, aspect and existential vine placement changes everything. More than four and less than 5,000 bottles of the vineyard’s finest produce are gifted in this wine, “the nuts,” but also the bolts of Boscarelli’s noble fruit. Yes there is this bifurcate character about it, at once roasted nuts meets frutta seca and then this depth, seriousness and structure. The forked Vino Nobile is both blessed by that Boscarelli grip and lifted into noble elegance. Three years will pass and little will change. I’d expect it to linger for 15 more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta

Tenuta Valdipiatta Pinot Nero Rosso Di Montepulciano IGT 2008, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

This small lot production is one of the most unique wines made in the Montepulciano hills, from just half a hectare on sand and clay. The vineyard was planted in 2000 to what must have been some whispers, giggles and closet envy, at the base of the hill beneath the winery. Dark berries, red ropey, ruby yet firm pinot nero fruit leads a wine of amazing toughness and grit. This must have really been something to behold in its first two or three years. All terroir and the hardest of nuts to crack. It has now softened somewhat but I wonder if in 2000 they could have known what might happen. The vines should hit their elegant stride beginning with perhaps the 2015 vintage, would be my best guess. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Rosso Di Montepulciano DOC 2015, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Valdipiatta’s Rosso was just recently bottled, with 10 per cent mamaiolo and canaiolo in support of the prugnolo. It spent only three months in (20 per cent) used barriques and like the pinot nero is truly a terroir driven wine. While certainly dusty, firm, deeply clay fruit deepened its musicality plays anything but an astringent tune. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

A multi-barrel slumber of six months in small barriques and 12 months in 500L Slavonian casks has ushered this firm sangiovese (with five per cent canaiolo) through the world of the traditional and the historically noble. In spite of its old school charm in upbringing it’s quite the amenable one with a wide reaching, outstretched arm of generosity marked by a salty-sweetness of candied-savoury accents. It’s quite the minty cool and fruit prosperous Vino Nobile that while tending to grippy is almost always open for business. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

The 2013 Vino Nobile is a softer, understated in grip version of the ’14, still terroir-driven but from a less demanding albeit singular vintage. What’s different, aside from an extra year beneath its legs is the presence of sweeter and finer-grained tannins but also a wider, open door of invitation and possibility. The Valdipiatta acidity is quite consistent, as is the traditional way of styling. A pattern is forming, of the ideal out of which an intrinsic understanding is able to cogitate the links in these wines of place. Strong genes run through the lineage of the Valdipiatta family. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Tenuta Valdipiatta Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Unlike the allure into a smiling reception offered up by the Annata 2013 the Riserva is conversely closed and not yet in a forgiving mood. The firmness of fruit, tart shrill of acidity and fineness of tannin all combine in procurement of one seriously intense Vino Nobile. The orotund voice and dramatic attitude follow the company line and in the Riserva do so with great hyperbole. It’s quiet remarkable actually. Unmistakable Valdipiatta. Drink 2019-2025. Tasted at Anteprima del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2017, February 2017

Avignonesi’s Virginie Saverys with Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Stephanie Johnson, on her right and The Reverse Wine Snob Jon Thorsen, on her left

Avignonesi

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2014, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Quite relaxed for sangiovese from the demanding coincidences of implausibility that arose out of the 2014 vintage, clearly directed as such to drink well while others have to wait. Tannins are certainly ripe and whatever agitative spearing or sparking that seems to be going on is given a healthy and humid oak bathing. Not so much found in the elegant oasis occupied by either or both ’12 or ’13 but a very grounded and centred Vino Nobile nonetheless. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, $41.95, WineAlign)

Like so many 2013s the fruit is quite plussed, pure and distinctly raw, dusty, cured and naturally craft sangiovese. The wood also seems to be in a diminutive position and so distinguishes the fruit though when all is said and done this equivocation can only be from Avignonesi. Terrific spice elements rub in and out of every crevice. Long like 2012, elegant in of itself and it’s quite possible the better or best is yet to come. The elusiveness of development means that we can’t yet really know. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2012, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The vintage is the one with the reductive “lamentala,” but merely just a fraction of that idea and is quick to blow off into the Val di Chiana. “We have to be careful with sangiovese,” cautions owner Virginie Saverys, “it has a very thick skin.” Extraction must be a delicate process and so a gentle délestage is performed, plus from the bottom up, “not a very physical pump over from the top.” This leads to big fruit, well endowed by barriques and tonneaux towards and always elegant result. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2011, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

The 2011 was augmented by late August into September warmth so late phenolic ripeness made for an adjustment to picking and a new wine was born. Though less floral and perhaps not quite as elegant as 2010 the slower developed will and power were a perfect fit for an Aussie winemaker’s roots. You can’t help but note the shiraz-like attitude in this ’11 but balance is afforded by a more extreme acidity. With thanks to prudent picking passes the greens were avoided and all was gifted by the reds and the blacks in one massive but now mellowing coexistence. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano DOCG 2010, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 943670, WineAlign)

This first year production under the transfer of full ownership to Virginie Saverys was marked by a long, cool growing season and as a result, a lovely, long-developed ripeness. The 2010 Vino Nobile is one of alcoholic meets polyphenolic balance. Though quite young yet there is a triumvirate fineness of fruit, acidity and tannin in a sangiovese where richness and elegance meet at the intersection of texture. This is a wine of shoulders lowered, at ease and at peace. Ripeness is the virtue on a road that flows like a river. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2013, Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 10993456, $72.00, WineAlign)

Desiderio is Avignonesi’s wine of “desire,” an IGT usually made with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon though it’s as much a varietal wine as any sangiovese, or perhaps better as a comparison to Napa Valley merlot. From the Val di Chiana, a wine looking for Chianina beef. Proprietor Virginie Saverys explains the terroir is “the southern most limit of making a decent merlot in Tuscany.” Any further south and “you can lose your whole crop to the heat over the course of three days.” Concentration due to clay rich soils and a consumption of oak by healthy fruit like there is no tomorrow. It’s quite remarkable how little heat spiked spice is found on the nose. Smells as merlot should with just a touch less than obvious jamminess, a dusty and complex emulsion of fruit and herbs. The bite, spice and concentration well up on the palate. Desiderio is intense and implosive merlot. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2010, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a selection off of 32 hectares of merlot with 15 per cent cabernet sauvignon, the 2010 Desiderio is not unlike ’13 but with more elegance, softness and demure. The spice is again hidden and here in ’10 it’s really a full case of fruit and what seems at first like nothing else. Time and the effects of that vintage have already conspired to soften a bring about this creamy mouthfeel and texture. Vanilla, chocolate ganache and a restrained sense of power. It’s quite pretty, ready to drink and yet there is this feeling that it’s not quintessential Desiderio. It’s beautiful nonetheless. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 2001, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

From a classic, important and proven Tuscan vintage and for merlot, very good, if not wholly and unequivocally exceptional. The wood on 2001 carries more weight and massive couverture and at 16 years of age the rendered effect is dripping in chocolate and fine espresso. There is this sense of exotic spice in airy accents, like five-spice and liquorice, but then a swirling descent into demi-glacé. Tannin and acidity are both a bit lower here, a reminder of time and evolution, not the most lashing in any shape or form. Paolo Trappolini was the winemaker for this 2001, a powerful merlot with plenty of glory. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT 1989, Tuscany, Italy (AgentWineAlign)

Proof is in the varietal pudding that merlot is much more forgiving than sangiovese and also more adaptive in its longevity. This ’89 is from a time when the winemaker could not have truly known what would happen or have the varietal expertise to provide the tools for making exceptional merlot. That was Ettore, one of the two brothers (along with Alberto Falvo) who procured a merlot of structure and this passive commitment to time. It’s more welled up with chocolate but there is this tension that obviously never wavered nor has oxidation really crept in. Incredible really. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at Avignonesi February 2017

The Valdichiana from the terrace of the Enoliteca del Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Good to go!

Godello

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Benvenuto Brunello 2017 report: Rethinking Rosso and disciplined Brunello

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #montalcino #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

It was a milestone edition of Benvenuto Brunello and also a gathering of symmetrical proportions. Looking back a half century, just after recognition of the D.O.C., it was in 1967 that the consortium was set up as an association of producers, “as a free association between winemakers bent on safeguarding their wine and on accentuating its qualities.” Twenty five years later the Benvenuto concept was conceived and now fifty years later this 2017 and 25th Benvenuto Brunello presented a preview of Annata 2015 Rosso di Montalcino, Annata 2012 Brunello di Montalcino, Riserva 2011, Moscadello and Sant’Antimo. Every year in February the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino organizes Benvenuto Brunello and by my count in 2017 there were 133 producers and 379 wines on hand to taste and evaluate, grouped together on February 17th and 18th in the Chiostro Museo Montalcino.

The vintages on hand offered up a study in contrasts beyond the obvious connotations served by the youth of Rosso Annata contrastive to aged Brunello. So many Mediterranean wine regions reaped huge benefits from the 2015 growing season but I’ve not personally seen such an across the board level of quality from a group of structured wines as I saw in the Rosso Annata. You would have to go back to 2010 to find a vintage with a near-chivalrous level of generosity and as far back as 2001 for its equal. That said I would suggest with extreme prejudice that 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is the vintage to change your mind about its quality and its ability to stand alone. As an entity, the Rosso are produced from grapes farmed explicitly for a purpose and it is this ’15 vintage that can be used to back up that very proposition. Rosso are fashioned to make a young sangiovese distinctive and antithetical to Brunello, but with the resolution to forge ahead with an intrinsic and personal level of structure.

The Brunello vintage at the 2017 Anteprima is the one that growers, producers, marketers and critics will chime in with a wide variance of opinion. There are many ways to look at the 2012 growing season. It is prescribed as a five-star vintage by the Consorzio, putting it on par with the best of the last 20 years, including 2010, 2007, 2006, 2004 and 1997.  Critics remain skeptical and producers seem content to say “we’ll see,” knowing that structure is a guarantee but that fruit may peak early. There is little doubt that fruit quality is prodigious to say the least and that to a wine, these are fine and refined sangiovese. The producers who resisted temptation to make huge wines and the ones who took a step away from the machine will likely be the ones who found the best balance and in turn will have forged the longest aged Brunelli. I for one see 2012 as closer to 2008 and 1998, firm, a little misunderstood in the early days and capable of improving dramatically with five to seven years of age. The fruit just seems to speak this truth.

Buongiorno #montalcino La Fortezza di Montalcino

Montalcino is one of the most iconic Tuscan hilltop villages, a high density designed labyrinth of winding streets with the medieval La Fortezza di Montalcino at the peak and heart of the city. La Fortezza is a monument rich in history and a symbol of the last glorious defence of the Sienese Republic in 1555 against Spanish-Florentine troops. Begun in 1361 to improve the fortifications of the city, the fortress became a symbol of the then dominant Sienese power, however, counterbalanced by the opportunity that was offered to the residents of Montalcino to have Sienese citizenship while delocalised. It was precisely this fact that led to important political, economic and administrative relations between the inhabitants of the two cities. By the time the 16th century came to a close the fortress had lost its military significance. La Fortezza Wine Shop and Wine Bar founded in 1980 by Mario Pianigiani and Marzio Giannelli sits inside the main tower of the fortress.

Montalcino rests at 564 meters above sea level between the valleys of three rivers; Ombre, Asso and Orcia. This island city has for centuries been cut off from major transit roads and subsequently avoided or missed out on the typical economic practices of the surrounding region. So it developed wine and olive oil as its primary industry. The world and Montalcino are all the richer for this fortuitous destiny.

#montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino is referred to as “a very modern and ingenious intuition,” a phrase that so aptly depicts how it has separated itself from other sangiovese producing neighbours, namely Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Only the Brunelli are possessive of a very certain and special sort of sangiovese aromatic liqueur, an amalgamation of deep, dark cherry, fresh leather, earth and flowers that differs from the others. Brunello also carries its own unique type of acidity and a fineness of tannin that speaks to how the grapes develop on the slopes and in the valleys below.

Only 15 per cent of a surface area totalling 24,000 hectares is planted to vines, just under 60 per cent to Brunello, approximately 15 to each Rosso and Sant’Antimo, 1.5 to Moscadello and 10 per cent to other grape varieties. The vineyards are set in a charmed square amphitheatre of geology, with the 1,740m high Mount Amiata to the south acting as protector and climate mitigator. Soils vary but at its most beautiful the decomposition of quatenary rock gives way to marl and albarese. The area is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, thankfully free of frost, great temperature fluctuations, the disease combative frequent presence of wind, mild and full days and in the end long, phenolic developing growing cycles.

Benvenuto Brunello gala dinner

Brunello’s rules call for maximum yields of eight tons per hectare and an obligatory ageing period in wood of two years in oak casks. A further four months (six for Riserva) is required in bottle. Bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of January in the fifth year following the harvest (sixth for Riserva). Only Bordeaux style bottles are permitted.

Rosso’s rules call for maximum yields of nine tons per hectare, bottling must take place in the production area and the wines can be made available for sale on the first of September of the year following the vintage. Like big brother Brunello, Rosso can only be housed in Bordeaux style bottles.

Moscadello’s yields climb to 10 tons per hectare for both natural and bubbly (five for Late Harvest) made from moscato bianco. The wines may be made available for sale on the first of January of the second year after the harvest, for the Late Harvest type. Sant’Antimo’s yields are set at nine tons per hectare for the Bianco and Rosso and eight for the other reds. It can be produced from all grape varieties recommended and authorized in the province of Siena, with specific limitations for the types with a variety name and for the Vin Santo. Bottling must take place in the province of Siena.

Sommelier service at Benvenuto Brunello

The Cooperative Cellars Biondi-Sant & Co are mentioned in the volume “Vini Tipici Senesi,” published by the chair of agronomy at the Università di Siena in 1933. The cooperative winery Biondi Santi & Co. was established in Montalcino in 1926 by a group of enthusiastic land owners who were also wine producers. They understood the necessity and importance of promoting two of Tuscany’s classic wines, Brunello and  Moscadello from Montalcino. The Brunello di Montalcino style did not emerge until the 1870s, soon after Il Risorgimento (the unification of the Italian regions into a single state). Its evolution was expressly due to the efforts of Ferruccio Biondi-Santi. A soldier in Garibaldi’s army, Biondi-Santi returned home from the campaigns to manage the Fattoria del Greppo estate belonging to his grandfather Clemente Santi. It was here that he developed some state-of-the-art winemaking techniques which would revolutionize wine production in Montalcino and greater Tuscany.

The word we know as Brunello translates loosely to “little dark one”, in reference to the local vernacular name for sangiovese grosso, “fat sangiovese,” the large-berried form of sangiovese which grows in the area. While Brunello di Montalcino and the clonal sangiovese grosso have been symbiotically synonymous for decades, in today’s modern Brunello lexicon it is simply sangiovese that speaks to the grape of the famous wines.

Vancouver’s Michaela Morris, Godello and our amazing sommelier Leia

Montalcino’s reason for breathing, loving and living is to celebrate the wines of its immediate territory and the most noble locally-produced sangiovese has made the history of Brunello while the younger Rosso have taken up the challenge to become the protagonists of the new market.

This report is due and with great thanks to the producers from Montalcino, Patrizio Cencioni, Chairman and President of The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino and Vice Presidents Tommaso Cortonesi, Andrea Machetti and Riccardo Talenti. Benvenuto Brunello is the culminating visit for the larger, week long roadshow of Anteprime di Toscana and so thanks is also afforded to Regione Toscana, Tuscany Wine Consortiums, PromoFirenze and the entire Anteprime di Toscana team. My 88 reviews in total cover 22 Rosso Annata 2015 and 2014, 26 Brunello 2012, 34 Brunello Vigna 2012 and six earlier vintage Vigna and Riserva.

#benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #rossodimontalcino

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Rosso Di Montalcino 2015

Fattoria Dei Barbi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Quite delicate and elegant in Rosso from Barbi so perfectly executed to suit the effects of the vintage. A poster child actually, with brightness belied by red fruit and then enough grip to solidify the future. This will drink perfectly consistent from now and to the end of these ‘10s.  Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

From warmest of warm southwest sandstone and marl Montalcino vineyards of solid rock and altitude. Marks the old school/new school twain as an undisguised expression and honestly prepares you for more structured Brunello without ever abandoning what Rosso must be. Red fruit, chalky liquidity and some fine tannins. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Capanna Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Capanna’s is a drink as fast as you can sort of Rosso with red tinging to black raspberry red fruit. There is a plum pudding space from the short barrel and such an inflection gifts true blue baby Brunello character. Enjoy this while the older siblings develop some of that formidable 2012 charm. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @capannamontalcino  #capanna

Castello Romitorio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

As young, fresh, beautifully whole-bunch startling and come get me by the trunkful as Rosso di Montalcino can really be. Strawberries soaking in their own macerating juices and straight out of the vat lithe tartness and beauty. For every day and just a hint of what tannin will want to be in the bigger, slowly rendered wood-spiced Brunello. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Collemattoni Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $28.99, WineAlign)

Firmer than some other Rosso but not in sacrifice of charm or elegance. Depth of berries and even a hint of plum both in aroma and on a silky, pleasurable and meaningful palate. Grown-up is one way of naming it but I prefer to think of Collematoni’s Rosso as in a category of its own, neither Rosso nor Brunello but something to take pleasure without needing any supply from either or. Rosso for next year and five after that. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The advance is a young winemaker’s approach, using fruit from the youngest vines but from the same vineyards used for Brunello production. Clonal selection permits early success from the fourth to fifth leaf for precocious wines off vines so young. Others may use vineyards dedicated to Rosso, so farmed with ulterior motive and expectation, neither better nor worse, but different. The old way was simply a matter in selection of grapes, something young winemakers are abandoning for now one or the other ways of making Rosso. Tommaso Cortonesi’s is luminous and bright within a frame of ascension in reference to the darker cherry sangiovese point spectrum, with three levels of variegated hue and aromatic profile. Char, fennel and fruit. Great structure, agreeable and yes, drinkable now Rosso. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Donatella’s is a beacon at the shore, up on the fortress and statuesque at the central piazza, standing sentinel to draw attention to the 2015 vintage. Rarely will you find this combination of bright and firm, lithe and intense, ripe and in charge. All the attributes of Montalcino sangiovese are ingrained, albeit with a feminine hand, into its bricks and mortar. Perfectly sculpted and executed, with grace and humility.  Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fattoi Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Relatively reserved as far as Rosso is concerned, with a darker berry, heavier clay and expressly extracted into juicy palate. Bigger expression that take full advantage of the generous vintage to be sure. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017    @BrunelloImports  #fattoi  brunelloimports  Lucia Fattoi  Brunello Imports Inc.

Gianni Brunelli Rosso Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $34.00, WineAlign)

Le Chiuse Di Sotto, “the closed below,” is beautiful, full and yet not so generous on the nose (above) in sangiovese pure and simply wanting to give Rosso expressly to the palate. The mouthfeel graces better than most, not wanting for anything more than what it knows and has. Nothing astringent about this firm grip and of a concentration yet elegant in tension. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Poggione Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, SAQ 12921974, $25.15, WineAlign)

Refined and expertly executed if on the side where acidity really makes a play for queen in this Rosso. In a matter for when fruit so red, smoky and ripe is up to the balancing task. Another Rosso that just kills it for the vintage. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

La Fiorita Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Simpler and straightforward for Rosso, with the feel of quickly pressed fruit with little extra time spent waiting for its response. There is this herbal note on the palate and a chalky feel that is floral, like a candied pansy and/or exchanged for/mixed with something dairy, even enzymatic. A bit unusual that needs time to settle in. Drink 2018-2020. Tasted February 2017   @NatalieLFiorita  @natalie_lafiorita  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches  La Fiorita Wines (Natalie Oliveros)

La Leccaia Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Resides on the roses and ethereal side of Rosso, of lithe and bright fruit, red all the way to the end. The palate is less expressive and somewhat carbonic, pulsating and pushing its way to the back. Deferential in ways not tasted yet. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino Carillon 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

If an imagining of the 2015 Brunello vintage can be foretold in the eyes, nose and mouth of a Rosso, La Torgata’s Carillon, “a group of small bells,” may just be the oracle. Sweet fruit in red cherry, ripe plum and then the dusting of fennel pollen will turn this to flow fluidly over river stones. So bright, light and pleasant. Could drink this with my pasta every night, no matter the preparation. Rosso like this is perfect, come questo è perfetto, for right now. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

La Togata Rosso Di Montalcino La Togata 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

La Togata is firmer than the estate’s Carillon and quite certainly taken from lower, deeper and heavier clay. La Torgata also confirms a pleasing vintage to come for Brunello. Fruit is just that much darker and with more grip and welling tension. Deep earthy charity all over the palate leads to great tang on the finish where the tannin thankfully arrests and relents. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Lazzeretti Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Very modern and expressive. Unexpected but bright and wonderfully fanciful. Fantasy Rosso to imagine ways you had not before. A bit of a wild, natural child. Would look forward to watching this develop over the course of an hour or two. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ViniLazzeretti  @ViniLazzeretti

Maté Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Maté’s is darker, richer and more productive on track with dead aim to please. Got graphite in the pencil and plenty of savour.  Spice is at the top in between and down below. Sultry really, hot and bothered. Good long finish. Drink 2017-2019.   Tasted February 2017  @MateWinery  mate_winery  Candace Máté  @MateWine

Scopetone Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone’s Rosso is quite perfumed, nimble and of a nose that thinks potpourri. Here Rosso again needs the palate to flesh and firm up the overall package. Turns just a hair musty and dusty in that respect but does proper work, for the house and for ’15. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Tiezzi Rosso Di Montalcino Poggio Cerrino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Poggio Cerrino certainly acts on the nose more like the reputedly bigger Brunello so this is the provider of such a style. As a Rosso this is the most liqueur focussed and so defines their corner of the 2015 market, of which the school is older and the tone slightly volatile, not to mention deep in extraction. Deeply entrenched in tradition with plenty of tannin, including some verdant strands. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

Ventolaio Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

More than just rustic and charming, here carefully considered to present a modern expression of sangiovese and what it amounts to is a refined, purposed and most excellent expression. There is this anaerobic, aerified inhalant impression that really takes away from expression so think about waiting a year to let the two fronts come together for a more perfect storm. Nothing precious about such a Rosso, only the sort of pure sangiovese roots laid down for success. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #ventolaio  @Ventolaio

Rosso ’15 highlights from #benvenutobrunello 2017 @consBrunello #latogata #carillon #castellodiromitorio #collemattoni #giannibrunelli #donatellacinellicolombini #ventolaio

Rosso Di Montalcino 2014

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino V. V. 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A more than beautiful rendition from 2014, regal and rewarding. Elegant and firm to nose, not so perfumed and holding back a touch, with thanks to the Montalcino old vines compression. Firm is the operative, elongation the plan. A mineral-focused sangiovese with years of persistence lay ahead. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Rosso Di Montalcino Petroso 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Petroso is much more beautiful and even on the edge of ethereal as compared to the old vines Rosso. This has bright red fruit and a lightness of Rosso character. Really perfumed, not so much, exactly or specifically fruit but also the mineral, wood and plenty of spices. Love the cross-section of firm, tangy and grippy. This just goes, flows and keeps flowing. Very long and definitive, of vintage and certainly, ostensible, place. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Il Marroneto Rosso Di Montalcino 2014, Doc Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

It is a pleasure to discover the beautifully rendered combination and complimentary connection between the bright and the structured in a best of both colliding worlds Rosso. Some weight also lends credible Brunello regional character, followed by a mouthfeel silky, fluid and in the end, full of tension and grip. It’s a veritable roller-coaster sangiovese ride, slowly climbing the hill to the crest and pausing, as if in a dream, without going over the edge. Fantasy and edging in Rosso di Montalcino. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Eyes on annata 2012 @consBrunello #brunellodimontalcino #benvenutobrunello 2017 #montalcino #toscana

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012

Argiano Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (154609, $54.00, WineAlign)

A solidified crust of earth and red fruit intertwine in Argiano’s 2012, a Brunello that resides on the firmer as opposed to brighter side of the 2012 vintage. Argiano will always deliver the goods, in quality fruit, from important terroir and with the building blocks to carry it for 10 to 15 years. The palate brings viscosity, unctuousness and more than enough finishing chocolate ganache. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Argianowinery  @Noble_Estates  cantina_argiano  noble_estates  @argiano  @NobleEstates

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (928028, $53.95, WineAlign)

Barbi accomplishes an Annata Brunello just haste in 2012, taking expressly written sangiovese red fruit and pushing it to the limits of its natural tendencies, in hue and expression. I would have to say that consistency from this house is an absolute guarantee and that its style trumps vintage as much as any other. This is simply more Barbi than 2-12. That’s all there is to it. Tannins are firm, acidity is strong and fruit is up to the 15 year task. Nothing time sensitive about it and its timeless structure cements the absolution. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineryWineAlign)

Brizio’s is quite fresh for Brunello in a style that won’t knock you down, from marl and galestro soils expressive of plum fruit and non-quelling oak. The warm southwest Montalcino corner rolls out a convection of buterred savoury pastry as though this were like Champagne in a sangiovese, Brunello style. Red velvet brioche and gingery exoticism from Montalcino with the fineness of tannin. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, 236356, $69.99, WineAlign)

Take a deep breath and take this beautiful 2012 Castello Romitorio in, full of the purest sangiovese, florals and a moist crust of the earth. Seamless, already full of clean and open window clarity and ultimately beautiful. There are no astringent moments of heavy, barrel chested wood huffs or puffs. This Brunello is traditionally pure while at the same time clean as a whistling sangiovese. Nothing finer or more enjoyable to drink, without any cure or a care. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (956391, $59.95, WineAlign)

This is the press train to get to the 2012 station, of the right and correct fruit but with the sense to pull in on time. You do not have to wait for Bosco to fight its way through the Brunello crowd. The journey is already complete so if you need a drink me now Brunello this is your train. The fruit darkens and fleshes just in the time it travels from glass to mouth, with temporal, juicy acidity and easy tannin. Finishes with a shot of fine espresso.  Drink 2017-2021. Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Brunello 2012 in the hands of Cava d’Onice is blessed of a most heady and pretty perfume in a decidly gregarious expression, though with no danger of inching over the strada. Really tests the limits of fruit and wood and comes out clean and fresh, with much liquid ruby, chalky and spiced addendum. It’s the sangiovese equivalent of old school charm in modernist, retro clothing. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (306852, $49.95, WineAlign)

Typically Col D’orcia for Brunello, firm, grippy and designed with angles, lines and box vector precision. Fruit is not at once ready and willing to tell a story because tannins are on top and suppress the basket down. I will admit that the vintage is more relenting than many, not quite 2007 mind you but certainly not a factor of 2008. This normale will need three years to open up before it really begins to celebrate its fruit and then offer evolving subtleties for five to seven after that. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Collemattoni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $61.99, WineAlign)

Gorgeous red fruit as generous and dare it be said, magnanimous as it gets. Collematoni is a fruit machine, but also a mineral maker and a long-distance, slow-evolutionary walker. The calcareous-clay impression (from San Angelo in Colle on the southern hill of Montalcino) leaves a lasting imprint on your Brunello soul. This carries fine millefoglie layers of fruit, woven in lattice and with alternative material from that fruit, of ground stone, acidity and sweet, fine-grainy tannin. No shards, no cruising and no need for rehydration. Carries it all in one bag, or bottle. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017  @collemattoni  @StemWineGroup  collemattoni  stemwinegroup  Collemattoni Brunello  @stemwine

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella, meaning the manna from heaven is a five hectare, five block vineyard in surround of the winery at the centre of the Cortonesi universe. A vineyard that is used exclusively for the production of the estate’s Rosso and La Mannella Brunelli. La Mannella (as opposed to I Poggiarelli) is a single block Brunello but not a “single-vineyard,” planted in 1985 and 1998 in a relative Montalcino colder northern clime. This emits and represents the epitome for floral sangiovese, a bouquet that speaks to violets and elegant, light purple fruit. The penetrability and explicability of purlieu is an act of focus and the cynosure of assessment. Brunello should be exacting, something you get and it must define itself in clear sangiovese-speak. Large slavonian oak for 36 months maintains and celebrates the perfume. The wood shows up late, in white peppery spice and that just have to lay on your tongue and swallow with sublime delight, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (431718, $58.00, WineAlign)

Donatella Cinelli Colombini’s ’12 presents a step up in character provided by the soil in her most masculine expression, if there is indeed such thing from this house. More density, seemingly lower-slope and deeper soil inflection comes replete with a handsome terroir-funky feeling. The fruit is currently secondary and not the most obvious for 2012 as a whole, though it is for the house. The palate is typically rendered by Donatella, creamy and fluid, liquid mineral ruby and carried by a fineness of tannin all the way to the finish. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fuligni Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (245225, $61.95, WineAlign)

Fuligni’s is a fine and refined sangiovese and quite perfect for and from the 2012 vintage. Quite an inhalant at first, savoury, strong and then turning tannic, properly rigid and wood-tough on the chalky and chocolatey palate. It’s not quite how it once in delivery a more traditional statement, now more streamlined, internationally understandable, bigger, grander and in search of suits around the table at a steakhouse. Will work for Tomahawks. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017     @HalpernWine  Fuligni  halpernwine  @halpernwine

Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Le Chiuse Di Sotto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

The Brunello from Chiuse Di Sotto is lovely in that it enters with that classic sangiovese purity, namely fruit but with the vineyard stowed comfortably in its iron-rich pocket. This strikes as perhaps schisty (or the Montalcino equivalent) Brunello, with a slight hematic and ferric aromatic complement. Really full, rich and acidity-laced palate is followed by a grand finale from which you wished you’d have been afforded an additional four years to make the assessment. Alas, that’s not how this works. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017.  @Noble_Estates  giannibrunelli  noble_estates  @NobleEstates

Il Grappolo Brunello Di Montalcino Sassocheto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The 2012 Brunello vintage is taken to an extreme side in Sassocheto’s Il Grappolo, with very firm and vacuumed aromatics shut and locked in so very tight. The depths are occupied by cherries drying, losing their body weight and settling into a floor of forest leaves and a future occupied by mushroom and truffle. The old-school, fine leathery and old barrel tonic bequeathes much hope for the mouthfeel and it gives every reason to confirm the possibilities. The world as we have known it here in Brunello sits right in this glass. It’s both comforting and filled with ancient wonder. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @GrappoloFortius   #ilgrappolo  @IlGrappoloFortiusMontalcino

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

High on the red liqueur but not equally so with high-octane tones, this is more accessible than you might think. It’s really big on its fruit, both on the nose and the palate. Quite classic in every respect and wholly respectful to the vintage. Bright and firm, direct and down to earth. Plenty of new wood will send this deep into the next decade. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

Il Poggione Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $62.50, WineAlign)

Like the 2015 Rosso the house style really concentrates fruit and soil, here into a solidly constructed, carefully considered architectural Brunello from the ground’s foundation all the way up. Aromas and texture act argilo-calcaire in origin, deep, humid and alive. The mouthfeel is fuller than many in 2012, tasted here in 2017, full of liquid chalk, 80 per cent cacao and really fine if currently intrusive tannin. Will need time, this grippy 2012. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @IlPoggioneWines  @LiffordON  ilpoggione  liffordgram  @villailpoggione  @liffordwineandspirits

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (121905, $57.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s 2012 continues the house roll with a fourth straight proverbial, essential and impressive Brunello. As much as any this is a true, red-blooded 2012 and after tasting near 100 samples it really stands out as exemplary and respectful to the vintage. There is this rustic but very pure curative quality in the way such wines remember everything that came before without pausing to crawl forward into the future. This drinks as it always will, with clean and fiery temper alongside flesh and freshness. Lovely example of 2012 that will age really well. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $50.00, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s ’12 is reductive and terroir-driven, the combative combination rendering this Brunello reserved and shy. There is a modicum of freshness from the fruit but also some dried character, likely a cause and effect created by its aggressive tannins. I like the way it switches gears to the palate with no break or change of pace and how it reaches deep into the well for more fruit and tannin. Several years will be needed to scale the wall, pry open the cracks and spill out the charm. Three at least. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (64956, $44.95, WineAlign)

Highly aromatic but also warm, the alcohol on this Mocali seems elevated to the higher end of the 2012 scale. For this reason the fruit succumbs to it and the tannin. There is plenty of stuffing and modern styling to keep Mocali’s sangiovese afloat so that it may glide well into the next century and reveal a Brunello charm from Montalcino roots. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  #mocaliwine  liffordgram  Mocali Azienda Mocali  @liffordwineandspirits

Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (651141, $62.95, WineAlign)

A perfectly perfumed Pian Delle Vigne from 2012 is vintage-relegated and vintage-captured. You need to appreciate how the Antinori team has kept the handling and the sheathing to a comfortable minimum, allowing fruit and collection of place to shine. Well made Brunello for 10 years easy. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @AntinoriFamily  @HalpernWine  #piandellevigne  halpernwine  @MarchesiAntinori  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.00, WineAlign)

Warm and in full dispensation of all that 2012 has on offer, the fruit is at once bright and then deepens, in hue and aroma, by extraction. There is this fennel to liquorice scent that isn’t so very 2012 but that extra bit of personality is Poggio Antico’s calling card. The mouthfeel is one of the better in this Benvenuto Brunello line-up, cool, sapid and elastic. Wild cherries are all over the tannic finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Antico Brunello Di Montalcino Altero 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 11300367, $90.50, WineAlign)

Altero might be considered in all of its possible meanings; elevato, nobile, dignitato. Lofty, noble and dignified. It provides a step up in extraction, firm tannic grip and a blessedly variegated aromatic personality built on pure sangiovese perfume. This really is a clean and fine, structured and clearly alterarsi (alternative) Poggio Antico expression, if more than obviously transparently defined Brunello di Montalcino. The level of refinement is felt in shivers, palpable and loaded with contentment gifted Brunello terms. Modernity is not so much a stylistic choice as much as it is necessity. Drink this comfortably for 20 years but not into the next dark ages. Drink 2018-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @poggioantico  @HalpernWine  tenutadelpoggioantico halpernwine  @tenutadelpoggioantico  @halpernwine

Poggio Di Sotto Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (337774, $180.00, WineAlign)

The present and the future are only bright coming from the heady and purposeful red fruit in the Poggio di Sotto glass. This is pure, clear and distinctly 2012, so very well made and quite elegant. I’m not sure what more you could ask from the vintage in a Brunello prepped to drink beginning of next year and for five equally lustrous more. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted February 2017    #poggiodisotto  Poggio di Sotto

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The “little knolls” comes with a whiff of old hides, barrel cellar walls and already a note of forest mushroom so the first thought is certainly placed back into another time. The palate is so welling with liqueur, acidity, tannin and endless possibility. There is grip but not too much and while this lingers it does so with waning grit and grip. So in the end, modernity is part of the plan and in what is ostensibly a big, sumptuous mouthful of sangiovese. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Bionsega “Lifestyle” 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Poggiolo’s Bionsega is a very amenable sangiovese, ready to drink in the short term while the others bide their developing and softening time. The “Lifestyle” moniker will clearly be written in Brunello stone for a group of imbibers who want the label without the anxiety. This will indeed offer them immediate pleasure and gratification if they can afford the money and the necessary if unavoidable cerebral time. But to be honest at the end of the glass the good and sincere Bionsega is not so out there so drink up and enjoy. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Rodolfo Cosimi Brunello Di Montalcino Il Poggiolo Terra Rossa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Terra Rossa soil is a fascinating thread, connecting disparate wine regions by soil, from Coonawarra to Chianti Classico and here into Montalcino. The territory’s red soil sangiovese delivers distinct purity and clarity earlier than the “normale” from Il Poggiolo. This Brunello is bright, cheery and full of ripe red cherry. Just a touch of grippy tannin comes swift but the impression is more tang from that soil and how the wine must be made from there. An earlier drinking Brunello to be sure and quite progressive in style. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @ilmioBrunello  il_poggiolo  @ilpoggiolomontalcino

Scopetone Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Scopetone is higher in tone and alcohol warmth but balanced by top quality and the clarity of fruit. Though the vintage does not necessarily bring such a fractive sort of behaviour the Scopetone sections itself into fruit, acidity and tannin, after it has stopped acting so bloody reductive. The hematic and ferric aspects mix with burgeoning acidity and a return of that exceptional fruit. This will live so very long and as such it’s deferential attitude to the vintage is easily forgiven. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted February 2017    #scopetone

Brunello Di Montalcino 2012 (Vigna)

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino Montosoli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10221683, $104.50, WineAlign)

In its present state Montesoli is a beast. There, I’ve said it. Shut tight, chains securely in place, reduction the retaining wall to keep predators out and so good luck on unearthing any early secrets. You know there is classic and earthy red fruit hiding but you can’t quite feel it. The palate is chewy, crunchy, propitiously and indubitibly enriched. This is a massive Brunello with underlying elegance and charm but ultimately all-powerful. Drink 2021-2037.  Tasted February 2017    @rogcowines  #altesino  rogersandcompanywines  Winery/Vineyard  @rogcowines

Castello Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Alle Mura 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

As expected a rich, preserved and developed liqueur from Poggio Alle Mura but what is exceptional is the lesser or lack of barrel on both the nose and the palate at such a young stage. This is the most red-fruit reasoned PAM I have ever tasted and I can only say that Banfi has listened to the vintage and the land with great exception and care. The chocolate and the viscosity are left behind so that purity and traditional (or is it forward-thinking) tenets of sangiovese can take centre stage. Bravo. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted February 2017  @CastelloBanfi  @AuthenticWineON  castellobanfi_ilborgo  awsmwest  @CastelloBanfi  @awsmon

Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Del Fiore 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10217300, $64.75, WineAlign)

Barbi has also listened to the wind and vintage ear worms sung from their iconic, 16th century vineyard known as Vigna del Fiore. Red fruit of clarity and purity reigns while acidity is at its finest for the house. The rusticity of cherry, leather and roasted beets combine for full gastronomic effect and lead into a rather sumptuous and mouth coating texture for the palate. This scales the wall and retreats again to stay in the game in which you can play now (well, soon), then repeatedly, at consistent increments, later and later. VdeF from Barbi is a best of both worlds Brunello for both consumer and collector. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @FattoriaBarbi  @Noble_Estates  fattoriadeibarbi  noble_estates  @FattoriadeiBarbi  @NobleEstates

Bellaria Brunello Di Montalcino Assunto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (206854, $36.95, WineAlign)

Bellaria’s Assunto is funky and truffle earthy, etched and forged from and for the past. Red citrus concentrate and wild thyme are further scents gotten and then such tart compression on the palate. Hard acidity and desperate tannin take this straight down the line. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017

Camigliano Brunello Di Montalcino Paesaggio Inatteso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Camigliano’s sangiovese is rather reductive and ornery at this stage, perhaps specific to the Paesaggio Inatteso Vigna bottling. It is a wine that will not give up easy. The dusty rustic fruit and heady to woodsy aromas are surely meant to spread some kind of traditional word but it’s hard to get past the fortress gates. Quite out of touch with fruit it’s hard to imagine that this will not develop much more charm anytime soon. The barrel is very strong on the flavours so added up you get what you got. Drink 2018-2021. Tasted February 2017

Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino La Casa 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $69.95, WineAlign)

Caparzo’s Vigna La Casa is quite rich and more approachable than many at such an early stage with the home vineyard ready to provide both the beauty and the stuffing almost before you realize you can sit down with a bottle to enjoy. It is refreshing to take a Vigna-designate bottle and be offered the immediacy of fruit though La Casa is more than capable with structure to take it through a five year primary stage. Some interest will develop after that but these early years will be the best. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CaparzoWines  @TheCaseForWine  #caparzowinery  

Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino Filo di Sesta 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A perfume of fine spun sweet red fruit fills the glass and prepares you for what can only be a case of smitten by love in sangiovese. The tree fruit is ripe and falls into the hand almost before it is picked. The traditions of the Brunelli are deeply entrenched into the genetics of such a wine and onto the palate we go with more sweet acidity-laced and tannin-gripped fruit. Quite seamless and propitiously endowed with a quiet and highly effective linger. Not as tough as many and yet indicative of the vintage without needing to scream for to be heard. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    @WineLoversAgncy  castelloromitorio  wineloversagency   Castello Romitorio  @wineloversagency

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello Di Montalcino Campo Del Drago 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (SAQ 10708424, $63.25, WineAlign)

A divergence from the normale comes from the dragon, with an increased level of aromatic airiness and simultaneous inhalant, like gastronomy coming from the kitchen of demi-glacé, herbs and roasting meats. Such culinary wafts are perfect for preparing the palate and the crunchy, chewy and marbled work is a reminder that salty protein (I’m really thinking fresh Tagliatelle and wild boar) is the focus in handling such sangiovese. The grip on the finish indicates a long life ahead. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @LiffordON  castigliondelbosco  liffordgram  @castigliondelbosco  @liffordwineandspirits

Cava d’Onice Brunello Di Montalcino Colombaio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Cava D’Onice’s Colmbaiao delivers high quality red fruit antics form the aromatic front in cloud-burst vitality from what is nothing but a striking expression of sangiovese. Expertly straddles the line between acidity-laced, sour-edged and ripe from extracted excitability. Bright, fresh and full of spirit. Sweet viscous purity of palate fruit, a bit of roll-up and then such round acidity. Ben preparato e qualificato. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017  @cavadonice  azienda_cavadonice  @cavadonice

Celestino Pecci Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Al Carro 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The wagon (or perhaps, chariot) “Al Carro” delivers a single-vineyard’s increased level of aromatic liqueur, reductive as if by concentrate and is the first to really give off that feeling of cherries seeping in their own syrupy liquid. Such an oozing coulis of sangiovese is what we have come to expect from Brunello though I don’t think it typical of the 2012 vintage. What it says is lower elevation fruit, likely from a warmer Montalcino spot and not quite so efficiently managed to stay cool, elegant and alive. It is delicious in current state but without sufficient grip and tannin structure not necessarily built for the long haul. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2017     celestinopecci  Celestino Pecci

Citille Di Sopra Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Poggio Ronconi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (187955, $49.00, WineAlign)

This single-vineyard Poggio Roncioni exhibits quite a bit of reduction and the warmth wells deeply on the nose with notes that bring some pine forest and cypress into the mix. Really layered and also firm, though decidly extracted and sitting cross-legged on the palate with some of that bitter red citrus pith and slightly astringent tannin. Solid if hard-working Brunello. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017    #citilledisopra

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello Di Montalcino Prime Donne 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy ($69.95, WineAlign)

With a nod to an all female produced Brunello, Donatella Le Cinelli Colombini’s Casato Prime Donne vineyards specific Brunello is rich, traditional, firm, seamless and structured. Really fine. Exceptional purity from red fruit and an ideally calculated transference of rusticity gives it that supplicated balance, from what was and going forward must be. There is this cooler site and climate-controlled type of phenolic fruit ripeness managed for a struck accord that will see this age gracefully for two decades. In a vintage that in many ways was predicated on a called for requiem of combined blocks and sites this is a true blocks of specific vineyards success. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted February 2017  @news_donatella  @LeSommelierWine  donatellacinellicolombini  lesommelierwine  Donatella Cinelli Colombini  @LeSommelierWine

Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino Valocchio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $84.69, WineAlign)

The four vineyard Valocchio is Fanti’s Vigna-designate Brunello, a massive sangiovese speaking for four blocks; Vigna Bellavista, Vigna Sassone, Vigna Casabandi and Vigna Macchiarelle Nuova. This strikes as hailing and indeed fact checking tells it does come from a south-east exposed warm spot with some density in the soil. The red fruit is deeply submerged in earthy-rich demi-glacé. There is a mild-mannered personality of volatility on the nose so some old-school thoughts creep in though I would not call this overly traditional Brunello. It is not hard to see past the microbes and to dig deeper into the concentration and grains of ropey acidity meeting tannin to clamber over the ever intense finish. Huge Brunello. Too much for now and in great need of a calming slumber. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017 @tenutafanti  @LeSommelierWine  tenuta_fanti  lesommelierwine  Elisa Fanti  @LeSommelierWine

Il Marroneto Brunello Di Montalcino Madonna delle Grazie 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Though certainly concentrated and likely from a warmish location the clarity on the nose and obvious purity of fruit renders this Madonna delle Grazie a great success. Cherries never smelled so fine and the palate that follows brings the same sort of brightness with thanks to equal and supportive acidity. When the fruit is finished occupying all your time you can expect those sweet but persistently chalky and tight-grained tannins. Drink 2019-2031. Tasted February 2017  @IlMarroneto  #ilMarroneto  @BrunelloIlMarroneto

La Fornace Brunello Di Montalcino Origini 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fornace’s Vigna Origini is reductive and volatile so exercise as much patience as you can before passing judgement on the origins and path forward of this Brunello. Keen herbal and savoury aromas come clean, along with tart red citrus and a zest of grapefruit. This is really steeped somewhere in the pretty deep distant past and at present acts with the sort of character that lacks the fruit density to keep up with today’s forward thinking Brunelli. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017

La Fortuna Brunello Di Montalcino Giobi 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

La Fortuna’s Giobi is much more approachable and gifts sweet perfume in 180 degree about face opposition to the previously tasted La Fornace Origini. The fruit’s warmer location has granted better possibility in conjunction with the older-stylistic and what comes from Giobi is more concentration and focus. Though a knowing nod comes from current character it’s not quite ready now and the future will offer further personality qualified as copacetic and correct. As for and from 2012 and relative to Brunello as a whole, this sangiovese is still quite present. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017 #tenutalafortuna  @lafortunaaziendaagricola

Fattoria La Leccaia Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Manapetra 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (185009, $59.95, WineAlign)

La Lecciaia’s Vigna Manapetra delivers a fair bit of welcoming Montalcino demure and the lithely floral aromas are the entry-point for this pulchritudinous sangiovese. Manapetra is a wine that just seems to jest and tease what is to eventually come. The feminine rapport is a lovely side-track to the ripe vintage away from the producer who failed to manage the duality of ripeness and over-bearing tannin. The presence, precision and clarity here edges forward and nears the divine. One of the best so far. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  @TWCimports  TheWineCoaches

Fattoria La Màgia Brunello Di Montalcino Ciliegio 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Il Ciliegio brings the best of the 2012 vintage to light and here we have come into the depth and elegance of what the most modern of Brunello can and really have to be. The fruit is ripe and I imagine the winemaker walking the vineyards every day coming into and at harvest time, eating grapes, chewing on seeds, waiting for that optimum combination of tannin resolution and crunch. This found the sweet spot. Elegance, purity, precision, focus, organically divined and from the most obvious of terrific terroir. Drink 2019-2039.  Tasted February 2017  @fattorialamagia  lamagiamontalcino  @lamagiamontalcino

Cantina Leonardo Da Vinci Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Sweet, sour, salty and earthy fruit make a total sangiovese play for well rounded pay dirt in the Da Vinci Brunello and yet this is expertly high-toned and succinct in edgy ways. There is some flesh and unctuous palate activity so the cumulative is deemed more than respectable in a Brunello next door kind of way.. Finishes with chocolate shavings and dusty espresso. For best results drink this in the early stages. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  @CantineLeonardo  cantineleonardodavinci  @CantineLeonardoDaVinci

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino V. V. 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

I sense an increase in alcohol from the old vines and perhaps this is completely necessary because of what they do in terms of compression and density. As a rule I am not finding high alcohol in 2012 even as I do find richness and ripeness that is not always easy to manage. These old vines are not a problem for the latter but the heat on the nose mutes the fruit and is ill prepared to set up the palate for acidity and tannin management. A bit rustic and old-school and certainly right for fans of the style. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Le Ragnaie Brunello Di Montalcino Fornace 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

Le Ragnaie’s Fornace (the furnace) is riper than the old vines but lower in warmth, and I suspect, alcohol. Also prevalent on the nose is some reduction, along with more obvious wood than many. The intent here is clearly for size so more than a few years will be needed to settle the heavy door on its hinges and nearly immoveable parts. The reduction will dissipate in a few and the tannins should begin to relent in two more. Drink 2021-2028.  Tasted February 2017    @KylixWines  #laragnaie  kylixwines  @leragnaie  @KylixWines

Mastrojanni Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Loreto 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $64.95, WineAlign)

Mastrojanni’s Vigna Loreto takes an express route through vintage ripeness to some jam and warmth in the nose though the fruit is really quite pure and rendered with clarity. The mouthfeel is round and fulfilling, markedly ripe again with pure fruit though not in the same kind of jam that seemed first apparent on the nose. To say this is exemplary for 2012 would be a gross understatement. Tannins are well-managed to package up the fruit and acidity in solid structure. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @MastrojanniWine  @MajesticWineInc  #mastrojanni  radalinke  majesticwinesinc  @MastrojanniWine  @majesticwinecellars

Ridolfi Brunello Di Montalcino Mercatale 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Some traditional rendering comes clean from the start with rich liqueur, those classic cherries and even some nebbiolo-like tar and roses. Continues the thread and coats the tongue with sour-sharp acids followed by anxiety styled tannin. I suspect the vintage posed stiff challenges to the house style and though the fruit will wane this will show its best after a few further years in bottle. Drink 2019-2023.  Tasted February 2017  Societa’ Agricola Ridolfi srl

San Polino Brunello Di Montalcino Helichrysum 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Depth and reserve make cause to wonder what will be though it is the combination of breaching ripeness and warmth that seem to dominate the internal, in the present moment’s discussion. Richness of fruit is undeniable, from red clay depths and the advancing severity of tannin make this a formidable and virtually irreproachable ’12. Five undisturbed years lay ahead for this Helichrysum sangiovese from San Polino and one should hope the fruit will outlast the bitter chocolate, grainy tannin and chalky sensibility. Probability, recent track record and a heavy hunch say this will work out just fine. Plain and simple, put this away. Drink 2021-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @SanPolinoVino  @TheLivingVine  #sanpolino  thelivingvine  #SanPolinoBrunello  The Living Vine inc.

Fattoria Scopone Brunello Di Montalcino L’Olivare 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

The amount of fennel and amaretti cookie on the plateau of aromatics is joined by really traditional but such a fine inhalant of Brunello specific-sangiovese. This L’Olivare vigna-designate from Scopone carries all the necessary attributes; cherry, leather, fine-distilled syrup, roses, fennel again and always a seamless integration of it all. As classic as classic gets, all moving parts within reason and decades of future in its proverbial ancient but timeless pocket. You know where you are. Drink 2019-2035.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Plenty of vacuuming liquor is sucked up into the bubble supported over the thinner air of this sangiovese. Warm to fiery fruit is traditionally rendered and fully accountable for its actions. There is just a touch of fungi and forest floor on the umami-configured nose so complexity is in despite the heat and the volatility. The palate offers some sweetness of fruit and a first hint of advancing times. Drink this traditional Brunello early with a rare bisteca and enjoy the fine ganache on the finish. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted February 2017  

Azienda Di Franci Franca Brunello Di Montalcino Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A small production of this Brunello out of Castelnuovo dell’Abate develops a deeper clay-influenced and markedly darker black cherry-raspberry fruit rendered sangiovese. This Tassi Di Franci Franca Selezione Franci is distinctly polar to Tassi’s Franci Franca normale. As a result the wood is more on top while the acidity and tannin wait, but only for a few moments, before attacking with fervour. So much chocolate swaths the palate with that fine-grainy brushstroke of tannin. This selezione is a big wine that needs a few years to back down. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2017  

Tenuta Buon Tempo Brunello Di Montalcino P.56 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Tenuta Buon Tempo’s plot specific p. 56 is quite full-throttle on the nose but a bit reserved or rather locked in within that aromatic structure, as if it needs some sort of catalyst to find its way out of the shell. What I reach for is fruit but I get a mineral streak first, something almost calcari but certainly argilo in origin. This must be from a higher location as it is cool-tempered and very refined. The palate is cool again, not so much herbal as it is swelling with the holy trinity of fruit, acidity and tannin. Were the acidity just a touch elevated I think this would travel over mountains, rivers and valleys to decades ahead. It’s just that close but will still commit to being a 15-20 year wine. Drink 2021-2036.  Tasted February 2017    tenutabuontempo  @TenutaBuonTempo  Carpe Vinum

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Poggio Doria 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Silvio Nardi’s Poggia Doria is fruit forward for Brunello with a wild cherry to black cherry lineage, but also some fragola di bosco. The ripeness is pushed to the limit for 2012 and this continues onto the very rich and sumptuously endowed palate. There is plenty of chocolate and tongue climbing acidity on that smothered palate. Drink this early and often. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

In opposition to the Poggio Doria, Nardi’s second Vigna delivers a complete about face turn around to see the other side of the moon, this time the landscape where Brunello is found in the Manachiara. If at first it seems a bit rendered in stencilled acetone keep drifting into its fine liqueur and patiently wait out the transformation. It deepens, condenses and then breathes. This is a fine-grained, tight coiling, re-coiling and fanning out across the moonscape sangiovese. The wood is very much in charge, with baking spices and cool, sapid and savoury edges. It needs time. Drink 2020-2027. Tasted February 2017  @TenuteNardi  @MajesticWineInc  tenutenardi  majesticwinesinc  @tenutenardi  @majesticwinecellars

Tiezzi Brunello Di Montalcino Vigna Soccorso 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Funky and markedly reductive young Brunello is easy to discount as problematic but something tells me to hang in there with Tiezzi’s Soccorso. The tension is palpable and the fruit suffocating behind the microbial wall of fame. Traditional can go either way; southerly sour or northerly nettled. This will mark the twain but the fruit will never be the focus of attention. Drink 2019-2024.  Tasted February 2017  @BrunelloTiezzi  brunellotiezzi  Brunello Tiezzi

La Togata Brunello Di Montalcino La Togata Dei Togati 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

A quite firm and traditionally challenged Brunello here from Togata cries for patience before it has even slipped from the glass into your mouth. Reserved to unrelenting at least aromatically, when you have a taste you are reminded that history, tradition and ancient sensibility must be apart of the future. The old large botti have established a void for which this sangiovese to hang and suspend so that it will be reluctant in its early bottle years. With time it will release its flesh and charm from out of a carefully crafted and designed complex system of architecture. Drink 2020-2034.  Tasted February 2017    #latogata  Brunello La Togata

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello Di Montalcino Pomona 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, WineAlign)

A new era of sweet Brunello fruit is borne from Poggio Salvi’s Pomona, one that is hard to describe but here goes. It’s like a cross between pink roses, sweet ruby grapefruit and wild saskatoon berry, or the Tuscan equivalent. The newfangled aromatics aside this is also older school than expected and yet is graced with incredibly fine tannins and very purposed acidity. More palate fruit would elevate the game but this should gain some flesh and slowly unwind for 10 to 12 years. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017    @HalpernWine  #villapoggiosalvi  halpernwine  Winery/Vineyard  @halpernwine

Brunello Di Montalcino 2011 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Looking rearward into the recent past what comes into near focus is the combination of liqueur and firmness, a handful for sure and yet it seems that time (even just an extra year or two in bottle) brings out that specific Cortonesi perfume. The tang and richness of concentrated acidity really elevates at this stage so that tannin begin its resultion so young and impressively so. This is not the big, bad Brunello but the one to make enjoyment haste. The length is exceptional with pretty tonic and bitter moments that pop in and out. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 (Vigna)

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

If the argument was ever made to sway in the “yes it was and is” direction, this Cortonesi example from the exceptional vintage leads the parade with aromatics that go exotic and then return domestic. A spirit of the east, of bougainvillea and hibiscus plus a Montalcino gustatory aromatic spice. Then that return to fennel, a walk through flora Montalcino brush and sweet French tonneau spice. The liquorice is one bred out of aromatic acidity, like a fine chalky dusting of red crimson and ochre to purple powder on a plate next to a perfect charred slice of beef. Elegant sangiovese cuisine in a glass, deconstructed and all obvious in their parts but when you taste you pause and it all comes together. The flavours mingle and weave, of cherries and fruit leather, more mellowed spice, still lingering fresh, persistent and remarkably bright. Southern vineyard be damned, this is a cool, elegant and lithe drop. Harkens back to a mind’s eye and nose in memory of Brunello 1998, maybe a bit of 1999, but more like 1998. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010

Podere Brizio Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Winery, WineAlign)

Consistency shines in the Brizio sangiovese triumvirate, from Rosso through Brunello and into this fine, precise and focused Riserva. The wine is once again aged in 54hL Allier French oak casks but for Riserva the time increases to 48 months, followed by bottle rest refinement for no less than one year. Riserva 2010 goes straight to the heartstrings, rich and warming. That liquor is red cherries and fine new leather with incredible structure. The linger is great, warm but within means. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted February 2017  @PodereBrizio  poderebrizio  @poderebrizio

Col D’orcia Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Poggio al Vento 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $129.00, WineAlign)

Poggio al Vento Riserva 2010 is so very smoky and wood charred so you wonder about the fruit but air brings a fleeting glimpse of that red toned life before the wind swirls to send it back to the smoky embers beneath the roasting bones of the cinghiale. Charm in Poggio al Vento is hard to come by so early and this is far too early. The palate is richer than you think and again with wood so prevalent. There is no doubt that a wait of five more years is needed before beauty can be coaxed out of this formidable Brunello. The vintage, the vineyard and the traditional house style all conspire for this Etruscan structure, meant to impress, influence and last just long enough. Drink 2021-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @Coldorcia  @DionysusWines  coldorcia  dionysuswines  @coldorcia.brunello  Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017  @LaMannella  @Nicholaspearce_  marcora85  nicholaspearcewines  Tommaso Cortonesi  Nicholas Pearce

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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En route to Mondavi

Godello at Mondavi, February 2016 @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers

I’m feeling a Mondavi shiver and a To Kalon shimmer coming on. Another anticipatory Mondavi experience is looming, a next week return venture to the iconic and archetypal Napa Valley winery. This will be my third deep delve into the wines of Robert Mondavi spread out over the past 15 months, after a February 2016 California visit and a June VINTAGES 50th Anniversary structured tasting and dinner. I thought it might be me that was the one getting around but clearly it’s the other way around.

THIS VINEYARD STOOD HEAD AND

SHOULDERS ABOVE THOSE AROUND IT

“The extraordinary quality of this wine originates in Napa Valley’s generous terroir. When I taste this, I’m reminded why Cabernet Sauvignon is the varietal on which Robert Mondavi built his reputation.” These are the comments of Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking. I’d hedge my bets that Fumé Blanc should also fall under the auspicious umbrella of such a statement. Mondavi turned the ideal into copyright and it should be argued that Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc would not be where it is today without the farming, research and development put in by generations of the Mondavi team.

Mondavi @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers — at Robert Mondavi Vineyard.

No matter the varietal, the To Kalon Vineyard is where it all stems from, the rib from which the eponymous winery was born and the subsequent 50 years of wines that have comes from those storied vines. In 1966 Mondavi chose To Kalon as the epicentre of what would turn out to be a great big winemaking universe. “It was a vineyard with a distinguished history and a magical nature, ” he wrote. “Ideal soils, sunlight and rain – to my eye, the vineyard was a treasure.” Five decades of Fumé Blanc have sprung, along with more than a hundred renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon.

During that February 2016 visit we tasted through Napa, Oakville and Reserve Fumé Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Carneros Pinot Noir and To Kalon Vineyard bottles were poured in the Margarit Mondavi Vineyard Room at dinner prepared by Chef Jeff Mosher, including the 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

Lorenzo Loseto predeliction @georgeonqueen Lobster, asparagus, quinoa, brioche #umami

Last June Mark De Vere MW led a masterclass in celebration of Mondavi’s 50th anniversary. The line up was outstanding bordering on ridiculous. Vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon starting at 2012 and going back through 2007, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1980 and 1975. The VINTAGES sponsored event and dinner at George Restaurant was prepared by the predilection of Executive Chef Lorenzo Loreto.

With 50 years of To Kalon and a specialized certification program up next, there is no better time than the present to publish these notes on 16 Mondavi wines tasted during these recent events and a few others that have found their way through the VINTAGES release program. Here they are.

Feeling a #mondavi shiver and a #tokalon shimmer #50thanniversary @RobertMondavi #markdevere

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 221887 $22.95, WineAlign)

The landmark 2015 is the culmination of five Mondavi decades spent elevating and differentiating sauvignon blanc, now in the its 50th vintage. The name fumé blanc and Mondavi are synonymous with one another in unequivocal signature, identical twin, trademark, signature fashion. Not just for Oakville, Napa Valley and California but anywhere and everywhere. You can throw in benchmark, Fodor’s or Lonely Planet guide, dictionary entry or whatever moniker you like. Mondavi’s is all this and in 2015 at its richest and adroitly balanced best. The nose is all ripe orchard fruit from seed to stone and the palate full of texture, acidity and length. The flavours repeat the apple-pear-peach-plum fodder with great tang and near-essential aridity. Great vineyards produce great sauvignon blanc and the rest is history. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc Oakville 2013, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 13119254 $32.00, WineAlign)

The Oakville fumé blanc is a To Kalon gathering, the vineyard that surrounds the Robert Mondavi Winery. With so many “highest beauty” offerings it’s hard to keep track but this qualifies for the distinction with as much respect as any in the ever moving squall of the portfolio. Here from the geographic mean of the valley, a benchmark Bordeaux blend in bench abutment, composed of 89 per cent sauvignon blanc and (11) sémillon. This is only the third vintage and once in cohorts you note the elevated toast, struck flint and smoke. More citrus involves the senses, something almost rare for Napa Valley, in this way. With time (and please be encouraged to hang out for a while) the butterscotch joins the fumé party. The increased tense intention translates to excellent length. The sémillon makes a statement into the nicely bitter finish, with weight, stoicism and certainly the great potential for age. By way of comparison to the Napa Valley bottle there are 5,000 cases of this Oakville. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Fumé Blanc To Kalon Vineyard 2012, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 225599 $44.75, WineAlign)

The To Kalon Vineyard Reserve produces 2500 cases (in a big year) and 2012 topped out at 1700. The vintage delivers more green apple and elastic elegance so good luck in your search for reduction, flint, toast and smoke. You should look to 2013 for such a deferential stylistic and make plans to embosom the two side by side 10 years onward. This is mostly sourced from the 1959 planted Robert’s Block within the larger vineyard, primarily gravelly and well-draining with some alluvial soil edged against the Mayacamas Mountains. The spice here is exceptional, with some anomalic Napa Valley mineral tang afforded by the sémillon blended into the sauvignon blanc. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California (492124, $44.95, WineAlign)

There is a richness defined in a Mondavi chardonnay that goes beyond the simple fact that the fruit is Carneros in origin. It’s a luxe composition because of that terroir and also because winemaker Genevieve Janssens is painfully shy to let the fruit speak on its own behalf. The crux and the key lies and turns right there because this is a Mondavi wine. Just as it is always noted with fumé blanc, chardonnay too develops this obeisant disposition, full of emotive ability and perhaps not exactly what you are want to expect, varietally speaking. This is singular for Carneros chardonnay and it’s all Mondavi. It’s both country kitchen in weekend baking mode and a walk in the ripening orchard. It’s a starred Michelin kitchen in baking fury, with a multiplicity of sugars caramelizing overtop a myriad of ramekins welling with tropical fruit. Finally, it’s a Mondavi acidity, elevated and integrated. It’s good chardonnay. Drink 2017-2022.   Tasted April 2017

Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve 2013, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (SAQ 10219840, $60.50, WineAlign)

Some wise old conditioned and character building vines go into Mondavi’s pinot noir, “purchased from people who have better fruit than we do.” The Hyde Vineyard (40 plus year-old vines) and Rancho Carneros (which includes vines planted in 1979) bring the southernmost windswept part of Napa Valley into the pinot mix. This is optimum extraction in hyperbole, of fruit that runs the gamut from red to deeply dark. It is nothing if not a rich, concentrated and intensely flavourful pinot noir. There is a measure of stuffing to see it drink this way for at least five years from release. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted February 2016

50th anniversary @RobertMondavi @LCBO #VINTAGES tasting @GeorgeTO #constellationbrands #cabernetsauvignon

Robert Mondavi 50th Anniversary Maestro Red 2013, Napa Valley, California (459933, $60.00, WineAlign)

Maestro the proprietary blend endows another legacy building notch onto the Robert Mondavi name. This is accomplished through the tenets of wisdom in winemaking as an extension from historic estate vineyards. To Kalon is always the rock and in order to make this 50th Anniversary blend there were sources drawn from throughout Napa Valley though mostly from the Stags Leap District. Merlot (59 per cent) is the pillar with cabernet franc (25), cabernet sauvignon (7), petit verdot (6) and malbec. It’s a true five varietal Bordeaux-styled affair with classic Mondavi elevated pH and acidity. The concept is taken from the image of Robert Mondavi as the maestro of the orchestra and of greater Napa Valley. The liquor of merlot provides the base wine, joined dusty and injected with power by jolts of espresso. It’s an interesting 50th anniversary choice of voice, antithetical to the dominant cabernet sauvignon reds that Mondavi is so famous for and the varietal he staked his reputation on. But rich and velvety helps the cause and the result. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley, California (255513, $37.95, WineAlign)

The aridity of 2013 has now translated into some lovely development in bottle that trials and tribulates with its wealthy pool of rich, ripe and silky chocolate texture. Such a typically reasoned Napa Valley explanation with 47 years under its increscent belt. Serious tannins need five years to seek settlement and to carry structure for to build a home for the ripe fruit. At 14.8 per cent alcohol there is much to fuel and keep the abode bathed in warmth, along with American oak in pancetta ooze, augmented by smoke and spice. Chewy and huge. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted twice, February and June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Napa Valley, California (459883, $73.00, WineAlign)

This 1996 is the 30th anniversary bottling at 20 years-old showing with impossible structure and beautiful possibilities still lay ahead. Though expecting it to push through to its 30th birthday is overly ambitious it will drink just like this, with freshness, bright red fruit and pitch perfect acidity for at least three more years. The pleasure it currently brings suggests this is what was meant to be, by design, of great fortune or just plain luck, so get it while it rests in this ethereal state. Those who paid nothing for it early on were the wisest of the wise and also lucky. This Mondavi ’96 would be a Left Bank killer in a Bordeaux blind tasting, teasing as it does with whiffs of Cassis and tobacco, plus a fortune in subtle perfume. The finish brings a note of baked bricks, almost like nebbiolo but the structure is all cabernet sauvignon. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, Napa Valley, California (459867, $73.00, WineAlign)

From a cool, oft times wet vintage with an elongated ripening season the under appreciated, under-valued and underestimated cabernet sauvignons of Napa Valley continue to get their say. This Mondavi ’94 will not be denied its voice, showing harmonious parts in symphony, of power, grip and elegance from To Kalon Vineyard fruit, amazing acidity and more than impressive longevity. Here now some notes of balsam wood, mushroom and soy have taken hold with more than just two years of extra time as compared to the silly fresh ’96, but the jig is not yet up. The combination of brown sugar and lingering mixed berry fruit is nothing but lovely. Drink up soon. Drink 2016-2017.   Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012, Napa Valley, California (670463, $150.00, WineAlign)

Much of the fruit is brought to the Napa Reserve from the To Kalon Vineyard and it is rounded out with complimentary Napa and 16 months in 100 per cent new French oak. From a post 2011 hardship deliverance, more than welcome, hallelujah even vintage. Now a Mondavi return to floral posture above and beyond the Napa and Oakville bottle norms. So very pretty and powerful, out of saturation and into drought from which tannic structure is born. Full on fruit without borders, up to the top of the walls and back down in to the glass. With each sip the tannin builds and builds until the wall is constructed. There is no escape because the architecture is both classic and exceptional. Don’t be in a hurry. Struggle will only tighten the grip. Be patient and the next decade will deliver elegance and grace. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To Kalon Vineyard 2012, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (670463, $150.00, WineAlign)

This is just the second vintage of the To Kalon Oakville Reserve (as opposed to the Napa bottling) from a vineyard where Robert Mondavi established his winery in 1966 and the next “great one,” after 2009. The To Kalon (western) Oakville Reserve is like the Gretzky of cabernet sauvignons, a generational player that only comes along once (or in wine terms, two or three times) a decade. The finest blocks and the “walk in the park” vintage conspired to make To Kalon a focal point once again, of both pH and acidity on the elevated scale, telling us that longevity will never come into question. The wall of tannin exhibited by the Napa Reserve is not duplicated here and so it is a different sort of structure that builds, with more black cherry rich fruit and coveted acescence, but also an absence refined, as if the French barrel hides, deftly woven into the fineness of grain. There is a dusty, ropey and slow developing rise in character, as if a low, barely audible rumble can be heard, or sensed. A waffling between great and outstanding is certainly understood but by the time we reach 2030 and add up the career statistics of this To Kalon I’m quite certain the jury will be out. Drink 2018-2031.  Tasted February and June 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley, California (670463, $144.95, WineAlign)

Tasted at the nine year mark the vintage warmth has nowhere to hide and the fruit is coming within reason of raisin. A small percentage of petit verdot is part of this Mondavi development from fruit as rich, concentrated and extracted as any. The choices made here surely went a long way towards teaching what subsequent decisions were made with the aridity of 2012, 2013 and 2014. The dried fruit as syrup glazing the layers of cake melts into the decadence of barrel chocolate and a roundness of acidity so different that the 2012s. Some earthy, woodsy floor grounds this ’07 so that you are able to see fruit through the forest’s trees. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Though sandwiched betwixt and gobsmacked between some infamous Napa Valley vintages (most notable 1995-7 and 1999) don’t look past this golden era 1998. To Kalon Vineyard is the source so right there is pretty much what you need to know about pedigree and potential. At this 17-18 years point in time a few drops of soy and a melt or two of caramel are noted in the ’98 Reserve’s development. Secondary affirmations and vintage structure bring out the purity of the herbaceous quality in cabernet sauvignon together with the slow evolution of a quiet, respectful wine. A tender and silky balsamic reduction chimes in though time is still a friend, willing and allowing the fruit to continue its natural path towards senectitude. I can’t find any reason to not seek tertiary character and continue to enjoy this over the next six years. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2016

Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, Napa Valley, California (670463, WineAlign)

A few points of merlot were blended into this 21-year salute to Mondavi’s legacy, a cabernet sauvignon impossibly fresh and bright this deep into life. The acidity is not only persistent it’s downright captivating and spellbinding. With thanks to the vintage of course, after a wet spring and a long, cool summer. Few double digit decade retrospective looks into the Mondavi cabernet sauvignon anthology would deliver such clarity of fruit seemingly immune to the truffled passages of time. By dint of tradition and without any forced supervision wines like this govern themselves and yet this might be a larger consideration regarding the entire portfolio. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted June 2016

Say, friend – you got any more of that good Sarsaparilla? #thestranger #thebiglebowski #yeahthatsagoodone

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1980, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Mondavi’s 1980 Reserve comes from a time when Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon was made in an unidentified, free and indirect style. The young To Kalon Vineyard may have already known its iconic place but if the makers also knew they could not have so easily created such an early success for us to revel in 36 years later. This is now and still fresh, at least in the context of three dozen years in the bag, with that tied To Kalon triumvirate of acidity, tannin and structure seamless and unsevered. How many aromatic notes can be described? Sarsaparilla, root beer, baked bricks, tomato leaf, pipe tobacco, eryngii mushroom, potpourri and mocha are eight that come to mind and nose. It’s a juicy ’80, not so much in terms of fruit though further sips bring faint memories on the back palate. All this 36 years later manages to remove responsibility from the omniscient perspective of the winemaker and lay it comfortably and pleasurably in our hands and minds. So much thanks for this opportunity. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted June 2016

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1975, Napa Valley, California (WineAlign)

Forty one years is a long haul for a wine to hang in there and I’m not sure more than a handful of 1975 Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon not plucked from the future iconic climat of To Kalon Vineyard could have survived this test of time. Even with the impressive longevity and lifeline ability this is now more curiosity than pleasure. Some might say at this stage the wine may be aimless but who can deny that it is also possessive of poised intelligence. From a vintage overshadowed by 1974, there is some old California Golden Seals hockey bag sweat in the aromatic mix along with savoury mulch and mushroom. There really is no fruit left to speak of, prune perhaps but no berries. The acidity still rips with some strength, swirling into the burnt caramel and all things considered this ain’t dead yet. It does show some Bretty notes that the 1980 does not and in the end the adage is true, spoken so eloquently by Mark de Vere MW. “Flavours you cannot replicate without time.” Drink 2016.   Tasted June 2016

Godello at Mondavi, February 2016 @CalifWines_CA @CBrandsCareers

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Mannella from heaven

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Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010

Having just recently (two weeks ago) participated in Benveunto Brunello 2017 held at the Chiostro del Museo di Montalcino from the 17th to the 20th of February, I’m feeling the sangiovese groove, in multiple clones and tones. Less than a week after my return to Canada one of the prodigal sons of Montalcino arrived in Toronto for a presentation of his wines with local omnipresent agent/négoce Nicholas Pearce. Jonathan MacCalder hosted the get together at the cozy Yorkville haunt he calls work, affectionately known as Kasa Moto.

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Tommaso Crtonesi holds Brunello court at Kasa Moto

A team of over-achieving and wild bunch sommeliers gave up the better part of a morning and early afternoon to talk sangiovese, Rosso di Toscana and the Rosso-Brunello idiom with the precocious and serenely wise Tommaso, a winemaker from Montalcino with an old soul, uncanny slash conscious ability and powers of concentration to bely his youth. With Nicholas Pearce, Michelle Ratzlaff, Krystina Roman, Christopher Sealy, Ian Thresher, Madeleine Hayles, Courtney Stebbings, Lauren Hall and the aforementioned Lenny Bruce of wine, we delved deep into the heart of the Montalcino matter. Sometime soon I will publish 100-plus tasting notes from the Benvenuto tasting but for now it’s all Mannella from heaven.

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The future of Montalcino is in good hands @LaMannella #cortonesi @nicholaspearce_ #tommasocortonesi #ilpoggiarelli #sangiovese #brunellodimontalcino

Cortonesi La Mannella Lèonus Igt Toscana Rosso 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $22.95, WineAlign)

Lèonus is sangiovese of natural and effortless appeal. With pocketed thoughts of Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino in mind you can extrapolate with elastic, proverbial stretch and easily wind up here. It’s simple really, straightforward and noted as a gulpable mouthful of rocks tumbling in wet concrete. The great round acidity equalizer acts for mostly northern Montalcino fruit plus 20 percent from the south. Tommaso Cortonesi comes at it with a threefold selection; at harvest, in fermentation and from élevage. It’s entry level so just drink it. The fruit is darker and deprived of firm astringency, spent four months in 3000L Slavonian oak and three months in bottle. For every day, especially with antipasti. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Rosso Di Montalcino 2015, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

The advance is a young winemaker’s approach, using fruit from the youngest vines but from the same vineyards used for Brunello production. Clonal selection permits early success from the fourth to fifth leaf for precocious wines off vines so young. Others may use vineyards dedicated to Rosso, so farmed with ulterior motive and expectation, neither better nor worse, but different. The old way was simply a matter in selection of grapes, something young winemakers are abandoning for now one or the other ways of making Rosso. Tommaso Cortonesi’s is luminous and bright within a frame of ascension in reference to the darker cherry sangiovese point spectrum, with three levels of variegated hue and aromatic profile. Char, fennel and fruit. Great structure, agreeable and yes, drinkable now Rosso. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $70.95, WineAlign)

La Mannella, meaning the manna from heaven is a five hectare, five block vineyard in surround of the winery at the centre of the Cortonesi universe. A vineyard that is used exclusively for the production of the estate’s Rosso and La Mannella Brunelli. La Mannella (as opposed to I Poggiarelli) is a single block Brunello but not a “single-vineyard,” planted in 1985 and 1998 in a relative Montalcino colder northern clime. This emits and represents the epitome for floral sangiovese, a bouquet that speaks to violets and elegant, light purple fruit. The penetrability and explicability of purlieu is an act of focus and the cynosure of assessment. Brunello should be exacting, something you get and it must define itself in clear sangiovese-speak. Large slavonian oak for 36 months maintains and celebrates the perfume. The wood shows up late, in white peppery spice and that just have to lay on your tongue and swallow with sublime delight, liquid chalky finish. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2012, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

This is Cortonesi’s single-vineyard sangiovese from the warmer, southern part of Montalcino at 420m of elevation. Expectation allows for deeper, and darker yet the display comes without the La Mannella block crimson and cimmerian variegation, perhaps instead more like the single-brushstroke, dark side of dusk angle created by a fuzzy, warm blend of fiery colours. More Galestro soil influence here as opposed to clay at La Mannella and two years in part new French tonneaux followed by stainless steel vats. A deferential élevage to the one exercised with La Mannella and one to encourage depth and structure without too much power. Classic, modern, elegant and an apple to La Mannella’s orange. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

Looking rearward into the recent past what comes into near focus is the combination of liqueur and firmness, a handful for sure and yet it seems that time (even just an extra year or two in bottle) brings out that specific Cortonesi perfume. The tang and richness of concentrated acidity really elevates at this stage so that tannin begin its resultion so young and impressively so. This is not the big, bad Brunello but the one to make enjoyment haste. The length is exceptional with pretty tonic and bitter moments that pop in and out. Drink 2018-2029.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino I Poggiarelli 2008, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.95, WineAlign)

If the argument was ever made to sway in the “yes it was and is” direction, this Cortonesi example from the exceptional vintage leads the parade with aromatics that go exotic and then return domestic. A spirit of the east, of bougainvillea and hibiscus plus a Montalcino gustatory aromatic spice. Then that return to fennel, a walk through flora Montalcino brush and sweet French tonneau spice. The liquorice is one bred out of aromatic acidity, like a fine chalky dusting of red crimson and ochre to purple powder on a plate next to a perfect charred slice of beef. Elegant sangiovese cuisine in a glass, deconstructed and all obvious in their parts but when you taste you pause and it all comes together. The flavours mingle and weave, of cherries and fruit leather, more mellowed spice, still lingering fresh, persistent and remarkably bright. Southern vineyard be damned, this is a cool, elegant and lithe drop. Harkens back to a mind’s eye and nose in memory of Brunello 1998, maybe a bit of 1999, but more like 1998. Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted February 2017

Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2010, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $202.95, WineAlign)

There are few Brunello vintages afforded more attention in the last 10-plus, certainly ’04 and ’06, increasingly better even from ’08 and looking forward towards what greatness will come in 2015. Yes but not solely magnified through the lens of patience and bottle time, from 2010 La Mannella has coupled upon and layered over itself like compressed fruit and puff pastry. Though it begs for drink now attention, another seven years will be needed before it can safely be labeled as uncoiled and to reveal all that is wrapped so tight. Rich is not the operative but unmistakeable as Cortonesi it is; that natural clay soil funk of resolution and fully hydrated chalk. This is to sangiovese as Les Preuses Grand Cru Chablis or Rangen Grand Cru Alsace are to Riesling. It carries in its pocket the absolute meaning and genetic responsibility of where it comes from, with a curative and restorative ability to get you lost. Drink 2019-2031.  Tasted February 2017

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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Seven climats in 54 Chablis Grand Cru

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Le kimmeridgien en fossiles d’Exogyra virgula

Related – Chablis Premier Cru by Cru

I have spent the better part of these past eight months tasting, assessing, contemplating, excogitating, dreaming about and purchasing Chablis. I may have once believed that the rooted obsession incited by my visit to the kimmeridgian zone last July would cease and desist by the time the clock struck 2017. I was dead wrong. If ever there was a Chablis lifer transformed, you are looking at him.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

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Related – Chablis got soil

Chablis Grand Cru can be found in the commune of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein River and the appellation comprises seven climats; Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. “The terroirs, formed in the Upper Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, are composed of limestone and marl with Exogyra virgula, tiny oyster fossils. Chablis Grand Cru is one of the rare French AOC wines to make reference to its geology, notably the Kimmeridgean age.”

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

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Related – Raveneau’s Grand Cru Blanchot 2009

If at first you have not written enough about a particular subject, keep on writing. My first grand assessment took my olfactory and gustatory senses, emotions and tangent extrapolating explorations into 76 examples of Chablis and Petit Chablis. I followed that exercise with 92 reviews to cover all the Premier Cru tasted in Chablis and Auxerre back in July of 2016 and also those I have assessed in the months since. Finally I have come to the Grand Cru, a group of top echelon Chablis that caused more personal reflection and inner exorcism than I’d like to admit. The count is 54 wines reviewed. At last, again and again I must pay retrospective and forward thanks to @purechablis  @vinsdechablis  @BourgogneWines and @vinsdebourgogne.

Related – Paradox in Chablis

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Au fil du Zinc Chablis, thon, concombre, crème d’anchois

Related – A Canadian in Chablis

Valmur

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The south-facing, Right Bank Grand Cru “Valley of Ripeness” parcel known as Valmur is from “val” which refers to “valley” and the French “mur,” which means “ripe.” Valmur and its great, late afternoon sun ensures phenolic ripeness unlike anywhere else, to accentuate the richness and the éclat. Yes there is this strong personality and guarantee of Grand Cru acidity but the creamy richesse is unparalleled for Chablis. Piuze recognizes both the place and the vintage and just lets this Valmur run free. What else should it be? Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Before launching into the Valmur 2012 first an exhortatory preface, or at least a contextual, cautionary tale from Patrick Piuze. “It will look a bit older, on the nose, because we tasted so many 2015s.” True, we have just sailed through 18 (plus one 2014) so this Valmur does seem “dressed-up” and boozy with alcohol but it’s OK because the acidity is divine. Evolution has done some rendering and I get the feeling Patrick was picking later then than he is now. The liqueur leads a remarkable cocktail of pure Valmur geology distilled, subservience to ends, almost now, but now quite. If this Piuze Valmur is a Chablis meme to an aramaic Belshazzar’s feast, the Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin is clearly understood writing on the wall. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur under the spell and with classic Collet acumen is a tale of two parts told with seamless transitions. Two to three year-old Allier “Moyenne chauffe” barrels hold the central Grand Cru hill’s proud climat fruit for 12 months followed by five extra fortifying and corralling months. The Valmur clocks in at a minor but important and impressing half per cent extra of alcohol and you can nose the slow-release, micro-oxygenated wood. In part two there is this rich and expansive vacuum with definite taxing spice and of course that Collet-specific lemon acidity. The back end is dripping with citrus, taking the reins and leaving the wood behind. In another year or two the transition will complete for perfect symmetry. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Valmur is a négoce Grand Cru from Sébastien Dampt, so very rich with razor-thin mineral pastry, fruit and cream layered upon that mineral many times over. It is raised in some wood and some inox, resulting in a tiered tart wrought with some weight. This is really like sucking on a mouthful of rocks, at first, all saline and tangy. Then the custard and the (on the edge of) brûléed orchard fruit creams in. The tension hangs in that caramelized balance in a Grand Cru set from a very clean and vintage driven take on Valmur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur leaves an indelible mark because in 2014 this one is just so confident and impresses with purpose. The Grand Cru vineyard is located on the top of the hill, both east and southwest facing, with some clay and marl (as a vein into the kimmeridgian sub-soil). There is more richness in Valmur and here surely a by-product of stupidly low (25 hL/L) yields. This carries in its DNA the complex and multi-faceted variegation of Chablis soils intertwined, reticulated and defined. Will make itself readily available ahead of the other Fèvre Grand Cru because of its richness as an extension of soil and exposition. Drink 2017-2023. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, ON $74.00, BCLDB 116517, $60.99, WineAlign)

From winemaker Fabien Moreau and his tiny parcel of 50 year-old vines sandwiched between Vaudésir to the north and Les Clos to the south. A pittance (for Grand Cru) percentage of new oak is used for half of the fruit, eventuating in beautifully delineated bitter density and fresh dressed pith. Quite open for business at this early stage but so very complex and variegated. Upon a second go ’round you might think reductive when what you are really getting is cool fresh mineral, away from bitter and into the yet unresolved. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @ChristianMoreau  @rogcowines

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (SAQ 12280775, $71.50, WineAlign)

Benoît Droin has crafted an esteemed, highly amenable and juicy Valmur in effete for break of dawn business openness. The acidity is really quite round, more so than the Moreau and quite in contrast to the Premier Cru (Montmains and Vaillons) Droins. There is more pitch and assertiveness in Valmur to be sure, qualities to qualify its Grand Cru positioning though still surprising to note how well it drinks while young. It’s a funny vintage to be sure, with more weight, aromatic liquor and pooling viscosity than most. Droin’s Valmur will develop a bilateral petrol-honey secondary note before the decade strikes end. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  

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L’asperule Barbue, brûlée, légumes verts croquants, jus d’arêtes à l’ugli

Related – Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

Bougros

(Côte De Bouqueyreaux)

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Bougros vines grown on the plateau and while the aromatics are a bit reserved (like those on the Piuze Terroir Découverte) this inward and recondite Grand Cru is an intense, raging from within Chablis. It is this collected and surrounded power that keeps Patrick’s Bougros so in control and while it is labeled at 12.5 per cent alcohol, Piuze admits that is maxes out at 12.2. This is significant when you consider what sort of sapidity plays out in the context of enigmatic behaviour. “You can’t have a duality between acidity and alcohol,” says Piuze. “I don’t want high alcohol.” What he wants is chaste tension and while 2015 is not the perfect vestal vintage to realize his plans, it stays the course nonetheless. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Brocard’s Grand Cru Bougros ’14 is the most reductive Chablis tasted so far this week, striking, chiseled and young beyond youth. Saline and briny to the hyperbole of its younger siblings, the implosion of full extract is at once arid and then rich. This is a full-on pure and simply beautiful Bougros, precisely tart and very long. Will age gracefully into the middle next decade, with ease. In the hands of Brocard Bougros to the west is neither entry or exit point but more like the epicentre of the action. This 2014 is certainly a top example for the vintage and the Grand Cru. Wait three years for it to unwind. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted with Julien Brocard at the domaine, July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Côte Bouguerots is the two point two hectare Domaine plot close to the river at the base of the Bougros Grand Cru hill. The extreme anti-steppe where only calcaire and kimmeridgian soils exist is the moonscape of Burgundy, bald, austere and machinery retarding. The ’14’s stark karst reality bleeds sea salinity, intense citrus and as much inferential mineral as this place can and ever will. Such a masculine assertion of Chablis predicated on this sort of fluidic geology and assortative power comes across in only so few. While the complexity is increased in Côte Bouguerots it is also like a vacuum within the greater clime, concentrating richness without fatness. This is, simply stated, a great white bottle of wine. The length goes on forever. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

If Bougros in 2013 is the outlier and the exit west away from the Grand Cru, the follow up 2014 turns that right around. In this terrific mineral meets acidity vintage Bougros strikes as the entry point into Grand Cru Chablis. The southwest facing climat launches the introductory impression of the Fèvre Domaine GCs, with idiosyncratic layers of citrus, namely lemon and lime. Fifty per cent of the Bougros (six of 12 hectares) lies calm and poised on the flat portion of the already mild slope, offering easier access and amenability. A launch point from where control is transferred from the operating system to the process and ultimately, the programmer. That would be winemaker Didier Séguier, he who takes a calm ferment and squeezes out its vital juices to render Chablis with all the attributes it has come to define. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

The southwest facing Bougros is the furthest strip west of the Grand Cru climats at modest altitudes ranging from 130 to 170m. Bougros strikes me as the hardest to read and the outlier of the Grand Cru because it is less expressive of that necessary and contemplative Chablis mineral idiom but don’t be fooled into thinking it bourgeois or insignificant. That type off thinking will only look for trouble and lead to dire straits. “Sitting on a fence that’s a dangerous course.” Bougros of marl and clay is a clam before a storm Grand Cru. It is sneaky dangerous and long. The limestone permeate is integrated with deep intent. It fills all nooks but with nary an act of argumentation or attrition. The vintage is an expanding one, not so much one that leaves a direct impression as much as one of wide expression. The palate circulates with citrus and zest, more lime and grapefruit than others and in warmer tenses, native and prominent. One upon a time in the west. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Côte De Bouqueyreaux

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Côte de Bouqueyraux terroir is a (45°) steep-sloping solid bedrock section of Bougros. It’s also a name referring to “how the monks are calling it” back in the pressoir day. “Bougueriot,” from the Latin “bucca” which gave the Old French “bouque” (shrunken). Or, Boquereau, which took its name from “bouque-eau,” (narrow passage by the water). Piuze made only 600 bottles in 2015 from this highly specified, laser-focused, riverine-simulated and disciplined Grand Cru vineyard. This is tasted 14th in the great caves breakfast Piuze rendezvous with Patrick and is unequivocally the most intense. And yet there is this creamy, nutty and tart stone tree-fruit character that adds a level of toothsome delight. Will chalk that up to 2015, from “a really sharp place,” coupled with the warm vintage. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

piuze-bouqeyrou

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

At 45° in angle the steep (perhaps the steepest) Côte de Bouqueyraux dangles Bougros like bait on a line and is the farthest thing from a shrunken (from the French “bouque”) or shrinking violet. This 2011 is what Patrick Piuze refers to as “in between ’09 and ’15 in style; my style.” He puckers, shrugs and adds, “pretty good for a vintage that isn’t supposed to age.” Once again it is Piuze that looks at Chablis, at Grand Cru Chablis from the very recent past as a wine of THE past. Most vignerons would see a 2011 Grand Cru as an infant, barely evolved and far too young to even think about passing any real judgement. Pious is the most pragmatic, honest and transparent of them all. It is both refreshing and confounding. Either for Bougros or in sub-climat terms this Côte De Bouqueyreaux is in the sweet spot. Citrus fruit, saline-mineral innervation and a vintage-affected softening combine for this lime-sherbet palate. Will drink with perfect reason for three to four more years. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

bordet-vaudesir

Vos désirs, in a word, #vaudesir @purechablis #jeanfrancoisbordet @bivbchablis #domaineseguinotbordet

Vaudésir

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Gran Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Jean-François Bordet’s Vaudésir tells a climat tale with the sort of precision and clarity that really explains the Cru comparative to Les Preuses and Les Clos. Bordet took over in 1988 so 25-plus years of experience later and with the exceptional vintage in pocket he has really locked into Vaudésir. The finesse that calmly breathes from SB’s fruit farmed on this double semi-circled, steep-sloping hill is certainly mellow, golden and mature. It’s also alive. Bordet makes use of 10 hL wood tanks for aging (12 months) plus six more in stainless steel. This has been in bottle six months, just long enough to reveal the intoxicating perfume, the power, rich texture and the elegance. In the present (or futur proche) Bordet’s ’14 Vaudésir will incite your desires, as it will say “je vais congelé vos désirs.” J-F shrugs and holds out his hands as he tells you this so after a glass (and an exceptional meal prepared by Eric Gallet at Le Bourgogne in Auxerre) some of your fantasies may come true. The effect may come with less jouissance than Les Preuses and not quite as much puissance of Les Clos but true power nonetheless. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11482703, $77.00, WineAlign)

For some producers Vaudésir is the pinnacle of their Chablis expression and yet here it seems the entry point as it leads in a tasting of four Grand Crus. From three parcels in the amphitheatre, one right at the top by the wood and two at the mid-way point on the hill. A direct, in your sight lines Vaudésir, so very lemon-lime push-pulled and densely tart. It’s taut but not sour, tight but not cringing from the tightening of the winch. The most masculine of Vaudésir perhaps with few equals though unwavering and unquestionable in its achievement of balance. The Inox secret is discarded (or complicated, depending on your vantage point) in favour of 100 per cent (15-16 years) old oak. This is Grand Cru after all. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Here from Vincent Tremblay a nicely stinky (dare it be said) and reductive Vaudésir of major mineral compression and the combative exaggerated energies of weight, body and density. This is a powerful expression of the climat that sits atop the Grand Cru hill, unique in round shape and steep slope as if created as a natural and ancient amphitheatre. Tremblay cuts a white stony line right through his chemin des vaudésirs, as any self-respecting Grand Cru Chablis should. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (226373, $110.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir from Fèvre’s Didier Séguier is the consummate erudite expression from the amphitheatre-chiseled and curled Grand Cru. It is here where there simply is no clay, only the calcaire for the kimmeridgian, so its all about high mineral commission. All Vaudésir is meant for aging but this, this is something other. Séguier the winemaker is a generous fellow, a giver of Chablis, gift-wrapped in 50 per cent oak and tank equality (as he does for all GC). The vernacular spoken is very direct primarily because of the veritable bath of mineral which translates to salinity off the charts. It can be imagined without any real difficulty that the alleged ancient sea bed is in this one. It will be some years before any change is noted and many more until mindfulness reigns in a secondary geological observation. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Burgundy, France (124354, $79.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir in Moreau’s Chablis cellar spent a mere handful of months in one, two and three year-old oak barrels, destined to an end game of gentle spice, then followed up with 24 months in stainless steel. Concentration, resolute vitality and depth render the barrel nearly obsolete, allowing the desires of the Cru’s mineral to really shine through. All that said it is a decidedly feminine expression, delicate and with richesse, but ultimately calm. Will age with charm and grace. Drink 2018-2025  @MoreauLouis1

lasperule-labbaye-de-citeaux-pommes-sautees-raisins-opaline

L’asperule L’abbaye de Citeaux, pommes sautées, raisins, opaline

Blanchot

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Serein River’s Right Bank Grand Cru faces south with vines that average 40 years-old. Neutral barrels are employed for the Piuze Blanchot so that density is derived slowly, effortlessly and with GC corradiation. In the cathedral of Blanchot there is always a compression intro. of mille-feuille flint and citrus but few act with as much immediate amenability as this ’15. Seemingly warm and downy, things begin to increase with intricate complexity and the point of convergence is met where persistence begins, two years down the tractor road, to carry on into the middle of the next decade. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (401984, $115.00, WineAlign)

From the top right (eastern) aspect of the white stones Grand Cru, just across the valley from Montée de Tonnerre. This is a fuller, slightly richer Blanchot but still so direct, piercing and impressed stone-dominant. Great lemon zest shaved into juice and an amplitude rendering dollop of curd. The lemon-curated and curative house continues to flex its citrus style. Once again, the enigma of Inox barrel and old barrels used. Why pour this last of the four Grand Crus? I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox, in retrospect and with further addendum to what seemed obvious at the time. Blanchot is the gate-keeper of Grand Cru middle ground. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Four of Domaine Laroche’s total of six-plus Grand Cru hectares are in Blanchot and comprise one third of all holdings in this ancient kimmeridgian climat and its southeast exposure. “We are the ambassador of this Grand Cru,” informs Elodie Saudemont, noting the low and slow ripening processes on the eastern portion of the Cru. The white clay defines Les Blanchots, infusing a fine minerality that delivers a purported sense of fitness and fineness to this wine. In 2014 there is a delicate arabesque lacework and a certain salinity, explicit and inherent to Blanchot. Floral like no other Grand Cru, of stereotypical but percipient aromas that call to the air what can only be white flowers. Not that it’s any shock but the length is exceptional too. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

une-degustation-chez-domainelaroche-originale-exceptionnelle-et-tellement-informative-merci-beaucoup-elodie-vaudevey-lesmontmains-lesvaillons-montedetonnerre-chablispremiercru-chablisgrandcru

Une dégustation chez @DomaineLaroche originale, exceptionnelle et tellement informative. Merci beaucoup Elodie #vaudevey #lesmontmains #lesvaillons #montedetonnerre #chablispremiercru #chablisgrandcru #leclos #lesblanchots #reservedelobedience

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Réserve De L’obédience is a cuvée coalesced from the best of Les Blanchots barrels, those that show the greatest balance between fruit and acidity. The entire technical team takes part in the process, to the end for a wine with the most finesse. There is no true reference point for such a wine, that is unless you can close your eyes, travel back in time and conjure up some 9th century L’Obédiencerie or 13th century Saint-Martin monks working a pressoir. Grand Cru Chablis separates itself from the rest for good reason but because L’obédience is a cuvée consolidated from the best of Les Blanchots’ barrels this is something other, or rather it is a cuvée spotted in a light separate from the rest of the Chablis Grand Cru. An unusual amalgamation, beyond the idea of selecting the best plots, into the concept of selecting the best wines. Here the practice of lutte raisonnée ensures balance is profligate and etched in stone. The acidity is pitch-perfect, the fruit a metronomic peregrination from streaming to richness and back again. Multiple exposures and various levels of ripeness be damned, this Grand Cru skips over the tribulations of plots and vintage variation. The best is stolen and used for great purpose. And 2014 was a friend. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Long-Depaquit treatment for Blanchots is with 25 per cent barrel. A real preserved lemon and just a hint of paraffin is replete with such elegance and finesse on the nose. Les Blanchots is at once soft but also of a sexy smoulder, like flint that has been sparked, extinguished and left with a lingering wisp. So beautifully wound and full of demurred grace. But don’t be fooled, there is a punch of acidity and underlying spirit. The house accounts for a meaningful if ponderous part of the Blanchot riddle, its centrism wrapped in a mystery, in a fruit versus stone enigma. Recondite, interwoven Chablis. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

La Folie d'Auxerre

Restaurant La Folie, Auxerre

Les Preuses

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034902, $106.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses faces west, the Grand Cru Patrick Piuze notes “is always last. You cannot beat Les Preuses in Chablis.” The crux of what Piuze is aiming to accomplish with Grand Cru fruit is motivated by this climat and explained like this. “We are early pickers, early bottlers and (patient observers of) late transformations.” Semi-getting on towards vieilles vignes of 35 years are grown in Kimmeridgian limestone and clay soil. La Voie Pierreuse (The Stony Path) is the Piuze GC muse and his tightly wound elucidation will take longer to unravel, flesh up and drink heartily than most. Even in 2015 there will be no immediate Les Preuses gratification but there will be valiance and stony reward. Eventually. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (360834, $99.00, WineAlign)

What separates Chablis from chardonnay begins with these 65 year-old vines, with healthy yields (50 hL/H) that are perfect for the vintage from this stoic and iconic Cru. Here is the essentiality of Les Preuses, “the juice of the stone,” saline, crustaceous, briny and simply, utterly trenchant. This is the vraiment Preuses impression, a fossil entrenched in the chardonnay and subsequently on the brain and the senses. A straight jacket Chablis with length up Les Preuses, back to the river and then straight back up and away into the woods. Inox barrel (sic) and old barrels used. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses is comprised of two point five hectares in two plots held in the Fèvre Domaine, one east facing and steep, the second southwest, flat and deep. The memory of an old Roman stone road “Perreuse” lays beneath, as marker and sentinel to the ancient rocks and stones below. Les Preuses is a blend of the two plots, both equal in delivery of rich and mineral elegant fruit. No other Grand Cru offers such near-identical balance from blocks meant to compliment one another. It is this symmetry, mille-feuille layering and gainful repetition that dishes LP such a a different sort of singular variegation, not so much a vein but a 12-string strum over top one another. There is more length to speak clearly of and ultimate elongation in Les Preuses. It is simply citrus beautiful. A near-perfect record, from side A to side B. Play either one first because it always comes around full circle. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

There is a certain sense of romanticism that surrounds Les Preuses, a cinematic beauty in thinking about a two thousand year-old Roman road which ran below the current vineyard. “Perreuse,” meaning stone and tasted directly after Bougros offers a stark inherent and stylistic contrast and unfairly puts the western frontier Grand Cru to shame. In Les Preuses the fruit speaks with beautiful infancy and fanciful clarity. It’s fleshy, creamy soft and delivers Fèvre’s most markedly chèvre-like aroma. The palate replay indicates this climat is expressly possessive of true goût de terroir. The lines led by stone and friable marl deliver crisp and cool streaks, climbing to higher climes, over hills and collines. Even in the climate-confused 2013 vintage Les Preuses is top quality Chablis, above and beyond. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

This particular concentrated salinity of Les Preuses is briny but not oyster briny, verdant but not savoury, tart but not piercing. The personality forged here is a calm before storm that will soon rage for three to five years and then settle into its predetermined gentile nature. A little bit of hay and popcorn feel is noted from more oak obviousness that couples with the vintage towards developing a richer style. In Ontario the equivalent ideal is like that of Tawse’s Paul Pender and when his wines age they remind me of Les Preuses. Here a great example of a Grand Cru in different hands and what impact the producer has on the specific expression for the terroir. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

domaine-testut

Grenouilles

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

In 2014 Grenouille in Cyril Testut’s domain returns to the typical and the expected. Though he employs 17 per cent new oak this persists stylistically so very much in the same range as his Premier Crus. You get oak in the guise of a minor crème anglaise and even more spice, but a delicate one. Round acidity is pronounced and in surround of the fruit richness as per the Grenouilles climat and this is observed as a very dedicated wine to the oeuvre. Lower yields (than the PCs) at 45 hL/H and 50 year-old vines combine for full-on variegated effect. This shows off great length, in oscillation and circular return. Grenouilles is different and the appreciation here is for loyalty and adherence to what is necessary. It’s so simple. Application of “cuivres et boites et assemblage” was completed before bottling. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Winery, WineAlign)

Some wines can be understood and disseminated just fine, but others are better vetted with the winemaker. Like this Grenouilles ’13, tasted at the domaine with Cyril Testut. The triad of vintage, climat and handling is made clear under Cyril’s supervision and explained with tacit and axiomatic clarity. “I like this vintage very much, difficult but very interesting.” Indeed it is vintage with good botrytis, not typical but so very interesting. In comparative literary and mythological ways it and Alsace Pinot Gris Grand Cru (and Hengst in particular) are construed to be running in parallel lines, with ripeness, metallurgy, orange blossom and tropical notes. But again there is a reigning in and a balance struck to stay away from the lychee, nectarine and mango spectrum. Minerality is still the king so you may allow yourself to be stationed in Beaune as well. I find great preoccupation in Testut’s Grenouilles ’13. It reads like few other Grand Cru. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted July 2016  

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grandcru for breakfast, jambon persillé for lunch. C’est Chablis. Oh

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The smallest of the greats Château Grenouilles is Chablisienne’s Grand Cru (seven of 9.5 farmed hectares), situated below Vaudésir and sandwiched between (right) Les Clos, Valmur and (left), Bougros and Preuses. Grenouilles is the only estate in Chablis where grapes are picked, crushed, vinified and aged directly within the vineyard itself. Only in this Grand Cru and heightened by this increasingly understood ’12 vintage is a wonderful note of green fraises du bois and floor of the bois above Les Grenouilles. Then comes a palate pricked with darts of green apple and such tart density. Really inward, taut and determined Chablis. Poured at the domaine by Oenologist Vincent Bartement. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

grenouilles

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (82974, $99.00, WineAlign)

Tasted with Oenologist Vincent Bartement at the domaine. The Grand Cru Grenouilles sits just above the D965 and the Serein River, with Les Clos and Valmur to its left, Bougros and Preuses to its right and Vaudésir above. It may be the least understood, least discussed and oft forgotten Grand Cru, in part because La Chablisienne farms and bottles a near exclusive (seven of the 9.5 hectares) quantity on the smallest of the Chablis Grand Cru. In a small vertical (that included ’12, ’10 and ’05) when you travel back a year ahead of that cracking 2012 there emerges a clear olfactive difference. The self-effaced “neologism with cloudy contours” whiffs into more herbology and perhaps some crustaceous notes. Certainly a raised funky beat. The gustative sensation salvos to more glycerin and although not as much texture, the age is offering a minor oxidative, liquid maize drip into perceived honey. As a consequence length is not as pronounced and if this ’11 is (at this stage) the most awkward of the three (consecutive vintages), it is also the most tactile and the most astute. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12449930, $98.75, WineAlign)

In a retrospective examined through a line-up with ’12, ’11 and ’05 in the vertical mix the development of Château Grenouilles emerges with some new-found clarity. This ’10 offer insights in ways the follow up vintages are not yet able to, now a year into secondary notes. The 2010 funk du fromage is musky strong, at first, and then beautifully developed from and into metal-mineral. Wonderful texture from 2010 and very little of the corn liquor. None even. A terrific vintage and what seems to me a near-perfect expression of Les Grenouilles. The most distinction is unearthed and appreciated, a calming pause, poise and such perfect temperament. A wonderful wine. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2005, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Château Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru 2005 at 11 years-old is beautifully and slow-micro oxidatively evolved though in many ways suspended in animation and almost not at all. Closer to 2010 than the others (tasted along with ’11 and ’12) for sure, with compressed minerality and excellent glycerin woven into wonderful texture. There will be two to three more years of optimal drinking before a next level oxidation begins to break down the fruit and turn the mineral into mandarin orange mixed with coppery metal. Take advantage of this current open window. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2009, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Grenouilles is a Grand Cru that Piuze used to work with but does not anymore. This 2009 is close to achieving its full resolve, now waxy, oleaginous, briny and filled with the kind of glück usually reserved for older riesling, especially out of Alsace. Piuze discusses Grenouilles as “the most uni-dimensional” of all the Grands Cru, but he likes the way it has come to this point. If it has to be a one-trick perfect pony than so be it. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Les Clos

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034929, $106.00, WineAlign)

Piuze gathers equal and opposing Les Clos fruit from two parcels, first (and in dominance) in communality with Blanchots and then by Valmur. While not a perfect vintage for the grand Grand Cru by any stretch of the Chablis imagination, precision and clarity is a guarantee under the tutelage of Patrick Piuze. Hail was certainly a factor so quantity is sacrificed to quality, with herbs, bitters and spicy salinity the collective foil to early picked fruit. It’s a toss-up whether or not Les Clos is more successful than Blanchots and it remains to be seen if phenolics will drive the ageability machine, but Patrick’s caution and judgement should see this through to live another day. It is Grand Cru after all and deserves at least two years respect. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent)

Here Les Clos is a magnified adaptive narrative of the Grand Cru, rich and full of ripe excess. Riper than most of the others, which is saying something. Magnetic, platinum mineral with very expressive fruit from Billaud-Simon’s take out of the grandaddy of all Chablis climats. The biggest bad boy of the flight and in the eyes of the world, textbook Grand Cru. Salinity, floral blossom airy and briny, though not quite expressive of the fossilized, ancient river trenchancy of Les Preuses. But again, Chablis at it old school, from very little shrouded or spice-driven wood, classic, cool-climate, mineral-driven Chablis. The summation confirms why it is poured after Vaudésir and Les Preuses but ahead of Blanchots. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

At first seemingly a different expression of Les Clos, both in aromatics and personality. There is this exoticism about Collet’s ’14, a perfume that imagines far east markets, of incense and peppermint. Then the terroir takes charge, of precious metals, platinum, gemstones and the Exogyra Virgula of the ancient soil’s shells. This combination of sweet fragrance and mineral contusion is intoxicating for a Les Clos. The Collet take is also neutral with respect to wood and unlike Valmur, lemon preserve appears nowhere on the forecasted radar. And yet there is more spirit here than many, if not quite as laser-focused as others. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Laroche’s (45 year-old) vines sit at the bottom of the slope where the ground ripples with an excess of limestone. Laroche build its Les Clos architecture through this super-structured mineral foundation, the use of enclosing shrubs for micro-biological bio-diversity and wood posts as opposed to iron. This Les Clos does not mess around. It’s a straightforward expression in mimic of a craftsman’s personality, i.e. technical director Gregory Viennois. As a portrait it makes a direct connection and an impression with extract, but also tannin and fruit of true Les Clos intensity. This is a truly engaging and laser Les Clos, of mouth watering acidity and repeatedly encouraging return sip-ability. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

 

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Moreau’s take on the grand-père Grand Cru is more obvious, showy and in exhibition of wood apparent musculature on the masculine side of the Grand Cru spectrum, not so much as spice but with volume and a broadening in mouthfeel. The mineral is tangy strong and will surely need a few years to settle into the rich fruit and savvy wood. This is really a baby as far as Les Clos is concerned and should not even be considered to be opened any time soon. The long road ahead will twist, turn and loop back into itself before Les Clos settles into the karst of its limestone landscape. Take the time to navigate the sinkholes and cavernous spaces and rewards in the name of miasma, massepain and miel will one day fill your glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted at the domaine with Frédérique Chamoy, July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

domaine-william-fevre-chablis-grand-cru

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

The Fèvre holdings are not so much a cornering of the market but more so, let’s say, are representative as existing out of the creator and chair of the exchange. The four hectares owned, farmed and produced of the largest of the (25 hectare) Grand Crus confirms Fèvre as the largest producer of Les Clos. Fifty per cent of the noble and lofty locale was planted by William’s father in the 1940’s, at the top of the hill. This 2014 is prodigious, ponderous and cracking, because it is a Fèvre, due to the house approach for this stand alone vintage and simply by virtue of that vintage. Here you have the richest Les Clos of them all, perhaps, but the puissance is dramatic. There is more pith and density here than any other. It is simply a wow Grand Cru expression, searing, intense, layered, compact, compressed and very, very long. This is the most gregarious, strutting peacock of Chablis. Tasted at the domaine with Director Didier Séguier. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Whereas Les Preuses persists as a player as part of its own height scaling process, Les Clos is already perched, permanently entrenched at the precipice. The permeate is integrated with a commotion of purity and clarity like no other. The stone is juiced like real lime in metronome time, with nothing but time on side to see this through 20 years of evolution. The richest fruit, laciest of organza overlay and highest degree of variegation has been gently coaxed from this storied Grand Cru by Director Didier Séguier. Top Les Clos from the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2033.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

I find in this a different sort of Les Clos from Sébastien Dampt, a négoce Grand Cru that is more linear, taut and even a bit austere. I’d go so far as to say this is the most piercing Dampt and the most piercing Les Clos I’ve comes across. For Dampt the first Les Clos was 2010 and here is his fifth vintage the Sébastien stride has been compassed and effectuated. This Les Clos will live very long as the length is exceptional. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

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Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Together with Sébastien Dampt I tasted two bottles of the 2013 Les Clos because he was not satisfied with the first. It was the side by side comparison of the two négoce Grand Cru that taught me things about the Cru, the vintage and Dampt. Initially speaking this can retrospectively be looked at as quite anti-2013 and as such more in line with the follow-up ’14. It alighted linear, taut and nearly as piercing. But unlike 2014 it was broad, soft and filled with French crème. Perhaps this first bottle was a bit frenzied and inculpably enzymatic. The second bottle tasted, reminded and reacted more like a ’13, ripe and near boozy, rich and expressive, with the spice so very pronounced. What is learned is Dampt’s unique ability to perpetuate a house style, despite the vintage and the Cru. Some things can’t be fought or changed so his is quite a big Les Clos but in 2013 not without his signature line. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $73.00, WineAlign)

The Chablisienne piece of Les Clos takes a fine and even a middle path with copacetic, inert cooperation interfaced between bled citrus and mined mineral. This is a very linear, direct, purely and precisely informative Les Clos. It speaks to the idea of consistency and to the expected despite coming out of a strange vintage. With a line clearly drawn into the dry, stone-flint, “mineral touch” Chablis directive it will take some time to develop its comfort level of flesh though fruit will always be the understudy. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Lamblin et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France

Smoky, wannabe flinty Grand Cru with a creamy, malo feel. Like a scoop of Grand Cru gelato, with a real almond paste smoothed into marzipan finish. Clearly speaks with more wood finishing than most and rounds out the stones of Les Clos with polish and crown moulding. As a result I would expect this needs a year to integrate but not as long as the more mineral examples. The fleshing has already begun and oxidative notes will rear before too long. Will drink beautifully beginning in the summer of 2017 and for two plus years beyond. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $94.95, WineAlign)

The very specific flint from top to bottom slope off of three hectares of terroir brings a climat’s certain acidity from the soil and in the guise of a multi/micro-parcel tang. From macro-mineral to stone fruity not this specific anywhere so fine. Does not show and will not show fatigue any time sooner or later, after all, it never has to climb to the top of Les Clos. The length here is legendary. It will be tough to find a better example for the vintage, from Les Clos and into an examination more specific and so precise. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Just because the richest of Grand Cru fruit can handle the added value, Les Clos receives a generous 35 per cent barrel fermentation. As per Les Clos the corpulence and amenability adds up to one grand and inviting Grand Cru Chablis. Always critically evident and full of joie de vivre, there is roundness on les Clos like no other Grand Cru and Long-Depaquit is front and centre to the end of that ideal. What separates this house’s style is the long and slowly evolving finish because and with thanks to the wood adding texture and cream to all aspects of its relationship with the largest Grand Cru. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Les Clos in 2014 to be honest is surprisingly a much more approachable Grand Cru, especially tasted side by side with Bougros, with nary a reductive moment. Here is the broad approach, a rich style, consumer-friendly chardonnay with a willingness to please to no end. Everything about this wine is liquid gold, like a still Champagne, haute of couture and stylish beyond words. That sense of affluence in style, and poise drift away dreamily into a slow, languid drizzle of warm caramel. Les Clos is anything but austere in the hands of many but particularly here, with this Brocard. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2007, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Julien Brocard pours the Grand Cru Les Clos 2007 blind from magnum and the first impression is this seems to have at least 10 years on it, but it’s probably older than I think. My initial guess is 2002. From what most mainstream critics considered to be a classic stone-mineral vintage with average acidity, I am surprised by the density of mineral so culpable to its oxidative tendency but the acidity keeps it very much alive. The cork was not in the best shape so this clearly had an bomb effect on speeding up aging by five years. A 2007 that acts like a 2002 is not such a terrible thing. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

long-dep

Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

The greatest of paradoxical moments is shared in confessional confidence with Moutonne because not just anyone can make a wine with the name and of such a singular distillation from within a venn diagram of places. While some lieu-dit in Chablis share affinities, territorial geography and climats with larger Premier Cru, it is only Moutonne that stands alone in the schematic drawn up for the Grand Crus. Though the Moutonne can’t help but take on the atypical characteristics of the 2013 vintage it also can’t escape from itself. Les deux visages are always relegated into the dichotomous and interconnected realm, of Les Preuses (five per cent) controlled with manifest destiny by Les Blanchots. Les Preuses’ fruit is feisty and must be heard and this is so necessary in the tropical and spicy vintage. There is no lychee here but there breathes some very ripe stone fruit and the great white geology of the Grand Cru. In spite of the vintage this is a beautifully managed Moutonne (fermented in 25 per cent barrel) with trenchant piquancy on the finish. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

this-may-or-may-not-have-happened-raveneau-memory-monteedetonnerre

This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre

It has never been this difficult to narrow it down. This frenetic, fast and forward moving blur of a year has blistered the patterns of thought so much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole 16 in 16 down the drain and laying it all out there. “Here are the 42 mind-blowing wines of 2016…” and then this wave of clarity came over me like a cloudless afternoon in Chablis. I mean I tasted 50-plus Grand Cru Chablis this year. They could all be on this list.

I meant this just the way I wrote it. The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

As if to presumptuously bookend 2016 before it even began, that first post was apropos. New year, 16 new VINTAGES releases were not mind-blowing by any stretch of the waxing rhapsodic imagination but white space was filled. Like growing grapes in warm climates where just about anything can complete a phenolic journey, the possibilities are endless. So that I may feel comfortable quoting Godello again and again, multeity is the name of the game.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

South Africa continued to occupy Godello for the early part of 2016 and that will never cease and desist. Hosting Andrea Mullineux at Barque Butcher Bar was one of the true highlights of the year. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned in previous articles, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.

A new riesling on my radar was released in February. Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign) and it paired beautifully with more foreshadowing than I’d like to admit.

Such a showing of 12 from Langton's does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

Such a showing of 12 from Langton’s does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

The Langton’s Classification: Excellent, outstanding, exceptional could have, would have placed 16 wines on this best of list were the rest of the planet not so adept at making wine. Like Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (466748, $99.95, WineAlign). Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. The mantra repeated with Savouring the new Australia.

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

California stars showed up in droves and like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip to Napa and Sonoma this year changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. First, Napa Valley: Where ripeness happens, then Napa Valley two: A question of ageNapa Valley: The next generationChardonnay in the Napa luxurySonoma gaps and single vineyardsSeven Grothic tales and Old vines for the Zin.

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of %22grothiness,%22 or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of grothiness, or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality? Even these wines could not make this list, however great and exceptional they are. Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (181131, $158.95, WineAlign), Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign) and Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $179.95, WineAlign). Sometimes the answer still persists. All in the Primum Familiae Vini. And by the way, The LCBO keeps Kosher.

lunch-champagnelallier-azureau

Much of what I taste is in a lab with no windows. That is because VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity. That is why attending varietal-centric events like The dawning of the age of Austrian wine and travelling the world is so important. Not too mention in my dining room In the Campania of Vini Alois.

ca-la-bionda

To name a few excursions, I visited California in February, Vinho Verde in March, Chianti Classico in May, Chablis in July and Valpolicella in September. November in Paris I re-connected with Earth and sky. The take aways were extraordinary and flush with the relish of new discoveries and brand new days. Who can forget Ca’ La Bionda Vigneti Di Ravazzol Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997? Italy in the fall reminded me that Franciacorta is the best kept sparkling secret on the planet. November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. Meraviglioso! Meanwhile, Champagne has to be on the list, right? Lallier Cuvée Millésime Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2008, Champagne, France (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign) should be but again, space restrictions and there was this old bubble from the New World. Decisions, decisions.

Related – March of the Canadians

Which brings me back to Canadian and more parochioally, Ontario wine. The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And so I asked Where does the taste of Ontario go from here? At Cuvée, where was the Cabernet Franc? Where was the rest of Ontario’s Go Gamay Go arsenal? Varietal lampoonery I tell ya. Over the highway and across the hills, No County for old wines and then, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender,” Too late for May Two-Four.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

This 16-strong list has much to do with the beg, Drink now or save it for later? I have spent the last 30 years considering wine in some respect. The last 15 much more so. The tries, trials, errors, tricks, and tribulations have taught me one thing. I prefer and receive much more instant gratification from drinking wines young but nothing compares to the insight and the exhilaration of partaking in older wines.

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

The year’s greatest distraction came at the hands of Chablis and fair warning, twenty thousand words are coming soon. In 2016 I published three times, Chablis from Dauvissat to VocoretLooking for Chablis in Ontario?Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru and Paradox in Chablis. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay. How could these extraordinary Chablis not make the list? Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign) and Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign). Perhaps because I will soon publish Grand Cru hyperbole next month? That must be it.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

For the first time, I think ever, I gave some love to Rosé in the Days of wine and Rosés. I also fell for new dessert wines and these two tried hard but came up just a wee bit short for the list. Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Symphonie De Novembre 2012, Southwest, France (470344, $38.95, WineAlign), Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign).

grahams_port-insanity-via-abnermallity-onceinalifetime-piratesonapicnic-piratesv4point0-sharingiscaring-1948-finestreserve

@grahams_port insanity via @abnermallity #onceinalifetime #piratesonapicnic #piratesv4point0 #sharingiscaring #1948 #finestreserve

Graham’s Vintage Port Finest Reserve 1948 (with thanks to Peter Boyd) granted the year’s moment of providable history. Love in droves. Holiday season for the VINTAGES releases were split and categorized, from December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada through December 10th in VINTAGES: Old World and into December 10th in VINTAGES: New World.

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

In 2016, two words. Chianti Classico. The wines have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age. Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign) was a side-revelation, as were so many others in Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione, The most important red wine from Italy. And in a year when CC is all that seems to matter, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign) and Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign) are but mere mentions in addendum.

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

It may seem irrelevant now but Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes on Godello will translate to a revolution at WineAlign in 2017. Wait for it. Most of all, 2016 will remind me that I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou. Here are Godello’s 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016.

200-yr-old-vines-1300m-above-sea-level-vignerietna-somesmartsomm-rosato-vinudilice-2008-tastethelava-volcanic

200 yr old vines. 1300m above sea level @vignerietna @somesmartsomm #rosato #vinudilice 2008 #tastethelava #volcanic

I Vigneri Di Salvo Foti Vinudilice 2008, Igt Sicilia Rosè, Sicily, Italy (WineAlign)

So much about this introduction to volcanic Rosato falls under the category and melts into the realm of the impossible. Begin with Vigna Bosco planted to 10,000, (up to) 200 year-old bush-trained (Etnean alberello) vines per hectare in Bronte, Northern Etna. Consider the party goers, endemic alicante, grecanico, minnella and other minor if wholly obscure native varietals. Locate the vineyard at 1,300m above sea level. Tell me it’s not the highest in all of Europe. Go on, tell me. Tended by hand with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon. Blush has never acted like this, suspended as if put into bottle yesterday, beautifully minutia funky, every detail in laser calm focus. There really is no reference point, not in the south of France or anywhere in Italy to prepare for such an intellection. Vinudilice is nestled in a wood filled with holly oak (quercus ilex or in Sicily, ilice) but in respect for its singularity I would hesitate to categorize or compartmentalize. In fact I would not use the term Rosé, or Orange or natural to realize a need for reason. I would simply taste the lava. Thank you SomeSmartSomm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @ivigneri  @somesmartsomm  @WinesOfSicily

not-members-of-blasted-mechanism-with-magnuspim-and-vasco-croft-aphroswines-vinhoverde

Not members Blasted Mechanism. With Chris Wilton and Vasco Croft, Aphros Wines, Vinho Verde

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loureiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Sémillon 2011, Barossa Valley, South Australia (Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

A sémillon revelation is found in this Barossa Valley ancient, a wine procured from vines dating back more than 150 years. To discount that prodigious bit of calculated fortuity would be wrong on so many levels. The Cirillo family are guardians of what may be the oldest continuously producing grenache and sémillon vineyards in Australia and by logical extension, the world. Here the combination of dry extract, mineral depth and straight-lined (unsalted) salinity is beyond special. While the Hunter Valley garners the most attention for aging immortal sémillon, this Barossan will likewise escape, somehow, to live another more complicated and mysterious life. I would wait three years for some extract meets tannic sweetness to begin its development and then take it slow for another six to 10. Incredible find here in Ontario from Marco Cirillo. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2016  @Cirillo1850wine  @bokkewines  @BarossaDirt

Brash Higgins Nero D’avola Amphorae Project 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The renegade triumvirate of coagulation denotes the shock and awe of this outlier; McLaren Vale, Nero d’Avola and Amphora. Winemaker Brad Hickey and his nickname have taken the troika and created a beautiful monster. A non-oxidative, crunchy, spicy, toasty, chewy and tannic NdA in versicolour, mottled and florid in flavour. There is black and white pepper, cinnamon, zesty orange spritz and a clay influence (plus amphora) to waft one for the ages. The palate flaunts a tapenade of painfully brilliant chalky black olive. The swirl is chocolate and vanilla, mediterranean and meganesian. There should be zero attention paid to the unusual in its concept. This is both a pleasure to taste now and will evolve into something wholly other given enough time. At least 10 years to be sure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @BrashHiggins  @mclaren_vale  @TheLivingVine

what-is-rockpile-time-in-and-time-out-the-fun-stuff-keith-moon-of-zinfandel-mauritsonwinery-sonomacounty-jameswood

Rockpile Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard 2013, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, California (Winery, US $47, WineAlign)

Look towards the other arm of Lake Sonoma and let your mind’s eye rest 250 feet higher than Jack’s Cabin Vineyard. The Cemetery plantation is a jagged, craggy outcropping with “a face uneven as a river jag and asperous as the mullein’s flannel.”  The Mauritsons are Los Campesinos of Cemetery Vineyard in Rockpile. The rocks below resemble giant headstones along the Rogers Creek fault and you just have to believe all this immensity of geology impacts the vines. It does but don’t ask how or why, just settle into the cimmerian depth of zinfandel touched by black fruit, spice and the akimbo savour of glutamate and amino acid. Three further months in barrel (85 French plus 15 American) accentuates the spice, smoulder and espresso con crema texture. Ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity are simply stellar out of this dramatic place. “You know us by the way we crawl and you know us by our cemetery gaits.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @mauritsonwinery  @sonomavintners

weinbach

Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2013, Alsace, France (581975, $64.00, WineAlign)

Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted October 2016    @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace

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Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016  @LuiLuiano  @chianticlassico

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Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

In 2012, less density and iodine matchstick is on display in performance for the historic, south facing vineyard beyond the Château’s walls. From this her eighth vintage in the resurrection of the family’s estate wines, Athénaïs de Béru has assembled fruit from Kimmeridgian limestone in rapport with a vintage of portent and intent towards elegance. The acidity is much more linear (than 2013) and the limestone sensations less metallic. Here the feeling is more of a liquid chalk and the balance is much improved. Also less evolved, bright and a much more amenable of a bitter pith, more citrus (lemon and lime) and not as earthy. Longer finish too. What 2013 lacks this ’12 gains and vice versa. The comparative literature and parenthetical study is duly noted as apples to oranges so the wines are exempt of one another. Neither answer all the questions asked and both express their terroir from their time spent on it. This ’12 story will become clearer in another year or two. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016       

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Granja Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016    @TelmoRodriguez_  @Noble_Estates

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Dominus 1998, Napa Valley, California (212381, $176.95, WineAlign)

When I tasted the 1990 in 2012, hanging on to every thread of oscillation from death to life and back again was exhausting. The 2008 tasted that same year could not have been more life affirming. This ’98 is such a zoetic Dominus beast with an embarrassment of resplendent riches. It is everything 1990 wished it could have been and yet the light-hearted George Hrab geological funk reminds me of that wine. The 1998 trips on a trebuchet and I weep at its aromatic reverie. It is hypnopompic, a state immediately preceding waking up, whiffing the most beautiful Brett there ever was or could ever imagined to be. Volatility in a bubble, circumstantial, lost in a dream. Get lost in the butcher shop, the natural cure here, there, everywhere, curative and comforting. Porcine and rapturous, fruit perfect and entitled, structure supprting every note. If 1998 was both a curious and concerning vintage this wine lays those worries to rest. The fretting may have swayed feelings and been difficult to glide fingers across but the harmonics extend with ease. Finishes with staccato calm, a palpable exhale of breath and silence. Five more years will be like this and five more without threat. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted October 2016     @rogcowines  

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Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Selección 1967, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (491647, $199.95, WineAlign)

You know it’s a good month when you are afforded the opportunity to taste two Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez oldies, first the Alvear Solera 1927 in Paris and now this Selección 1967 bottled in November of 2016. The vintage-dated PX are produced from sun-dried grapes fermented for two months to eight or nine per cent alcohol, at which point a distillate made from the same PX pressings is added to bring the wine up to 17 per cent. First in concrete vats and then a transfer into 50-150 year old American oak barrels. Only 630 bottles were filled in a PX of awakening and hope that finished at an indiscernible 17 per cent alcohol. Some dessert wines can be cloying Popskull but Bodegas Toro Albalá delivers yet another impossible and crazy dessert wine of heavy fuel, impeccable balance in the face of Lugduname breaching sweetness and aromas sin fronteras. The gamut glides through roasted nuts and dried fruits, from almonds and Van Gogh Museum memories of their abundant flowers plus pomegranate, apricot, peach, nectarine, damson plum and pistachio. So much pistachio!! In between there is orange marmalade, quince jelly and prune preserve. Plenty of acidity extends and narrows into a sharp, pointed tang. No matter how many times you try to empty the glass there is always more wine. Always another sip. Is it viscosity, a truco del ojo or trampantojo? Is there some kind of wizardry at play? Then finally, well, actually never, a finish with no end, or a pause in a never-ending 49 year-old (and counting) story. So where is the beginning? 1967. Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted November 2016  @toroalbala  @sorgatoBTA  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

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Schramsberg Sparkling J. Schram 50th Anniversary Late disgorged 1999, Napa Valley, California (Winery $175 US, WineAlign)

In celebration of Schramsberg’s golden anniversary, 50 years after Jack and Jamie Davies revived the historic Schramsberg estate for the purpose of making the nation’s first chardonnay and pinot noir based, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. A North Coast (57 per cent Napa, 25 Mendocino, 15 Monterey and 13 Sonoma) blend of 74 per cent chardonnay and 26 pinot noir. Seventeen years have come to ginger, cumin, coriander and galangal in laminous, oxidative ingenuity, wholly arid in kicking up the aromatic dust. Flavours of pressed lemon, bitter brioche and then tannin, yes tannin. From a protracted year, picked as late as October 19th, disgorged in August of 2014 at a dosage of (very necessary) 11.5 g/L RS. Blessed with high natural acidity of 9.8 tA. How can I not concur with Hugh Davies. “What we’re really showing here is Napa Valley Chardonnay.” Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted February 2016  @Schramsberg  @TheVine_RobGroh

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2001, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle opened five days prior which is nothing really for a wine that can age easily for 30 years. It resides in a perfect state. Vincent concedes “over 20 there is nothing to be gained” and yet the still terrifically raging acidity would suggest this 15 year-old specimen is only halfway there. The texture is nothing if not persuasive. In 1931 Vincent’s father began this journey. Here 70 years later is a wine so perfectly intact, the lemon-waxy aspect almost on the edge of the hive. But not quite because of the taut bracing and tight embracing. There is a chew to this and Dauvissat shrugs. “What’s to say?” Nothing but a great piece of his history and his father’s legacy. If this wine is a sentimental tribute to a childhood village, it is never uncomplicated. Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted July 2016

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Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $325.00, WineAlign)

In this extremely specific malbec from a diagnosed block of the Adrianna Vineyard we are graced with the micro-science of wine. And if you feel that using the name of an aerobic bacteria in the nomenclature is an odd choice, consider the mind of Dr. Laura Catena and her biological approach to viticulture. If we can understand and differentiate the microbes in the soil we can make better wine. It’s as simple as that. When wine is broken down to the biological level it becomes something entirely different and this is the road travelled by the Mundus Bacillus. Catena’s usage of 70 parcel pits per hectare has unearthed this single parcel within the vineyard, again completely different and the pinpointed microbial discussion initiates right here. The soil stakes a claim for this malbec only, certainly not in any way that tends to funk but surely as an impresario of soil. Talk about eugenics in the MBT because that science is compelling and can be related to in this wine. It can offer keys towards improving genetic quality of the vinous population. Here we are faced with rich and dusty, a mean streak of malbec intensity made elegant by earthly microbes. This section draws parallels to the (chardonnay) White Bones soil from which there transfers an excess of dry extract and tannin. Patience please for a malbec that will be long lived. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2016

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